Analyzing Louis Vuitton’s FW 21 Menswear (Part 2: The Plot)
The title, ‘Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light’ strikes a notion itself. With the visuals of ice white snow and the poet walking through the landscape is a sore contrast to behold. The scene also creates parallels to the essay which deals with Baldwin being around whites in Switzerland.
The complete storyline is divided into four parts: Ebonics, Snake Oil, The Black Box and Mirror Mirror.
The opening of Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light starts with a compelling recital of the poem by Saul Williams, deliberately declaring that change is here. The poem gives us the opportunity to read between the lines. An opportunity for everyone to create their own perceptions, and here is what mine was:
Ebonics originally referred to the language used by black African slaves. In coordination with the snowy landscape, we hear the words of the poet in a melodious echo:
In this white wilderness
The construct of purity is sullied with every step (Purist ideology is damaged with false facts being passed to newer generations)
The evidence I carry (my kin’s history)
A hidden Sun (hope) in every breath
My blackest self, whose whitest (purest form of, natural) death
I am no stranger anymore
The world is love (accepted) to me (also, I have forgiven the world)
The snow (white supremacy) will melt
And the ice will thaw
And make it up to me (for all the oppression and prejudice)
The visuals we see here are of a group a black models skiing, which relates to a statement quoted in the essay, “Some of the (native village) men drink with me and suggest that I learn how to ski-partly, I gather, because they cannot imagine what I would look like on skis ” Black men skiing in the presentation seems to me a portrayal of the Neotype ideologies resurfacing.
Make it up to me
Take down the walls (of Tourist vs. Purist ideology/of the differences)
Deconstruct the narrative (of supremacy of one over another)
Unravel the mystery (of what the Church kept a secret from Baldwin in Switzerland. There was something others were told which he wasn’t.)
Make it up to me
Make space for me (for the blacks)
And all the spaces in between (for LGBTQA+ and all colored humans of the world)
Make it up to me
Make it up to me
In the name of…
He begins to recite the names of all the mythological entities and equivalent identities, including Gandhi, Ganesh, Shiva, Medusa, Mary, Teresa, Shakespeare and many more who were responsible for creating a change for the better. The above excerpt is taken from the poem Coded Language by none other than Saul Williams.
The show notes also mention Kanye West, who has a great share in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Within this recital we observe two white men turning back to look at the poet briefly as he kept speaking. Tourist vs. Purist is also at play here with the black models styled as dancers, artists and many other professions who were desperately trying to get into the turquoise marble walls (i.e. Paris) and failing miserably. The dancer has given up, trying to get into Paris to make a living.
…those who burn
Those to the flames (who sacrificed their lives for the equality)
And the countless unnamed
A quick dictionary search explains snake oil as ‘a substance with no real medicinal value sold as a remedy for all diseases’, meaning it can be used for any healthcare scam or fraud.
In the story, the poet enters Paris (i.e. the marble distinction, which is inspired from the Barcelona Pavilion of France), cautiously walking to till the end of it, placing the briefcase trunk outside, near to the dancer, and leaves. Abloh defines Bags as the utmost symbol of utility and thus, value. Our protagonist was able to enter Paris without any restrictions because of the bag.
The scene then focuses on the dancer, who gets up and enters the pavilion from a broken area of the wall instead of the main entrances, immediately falling as he enters, struggling to dance (make a living). With a melodious cue of the flute (as seen as an accessory on one of the models), we hear:
You know when all the girls used to take things from runways and ballrooms
It’s not stealing or robbing or looting
It’s stepping into a fantasy that shouldn’t be a utopia
But just a living right
I think as black people, and trans people,
And as marginalized people
The world is here for our taking (as we were never given anything on a platter)
It takes so much from us (many cultures belonged to the black community originally)
I do know good thieves
Those who steal hearts and glittery dresses alike…
… in fact, I know plenty of good thieves
The above-mentioned events (according to my understanding) come under snake oil as making a living out of being a so-called thief isn’t helping with the reputation of the marginalized community in a white-dominant environment, even though it would definitely help a suppressed family with its daily bread.
Black Box/Art Heist
He picks up the bag, and starts walking, later passing it on. This is where the Art Heist begins and ends in a fraction of seconds. Yet, all the professions exchange their utility (bags) with each other, a symbolism of exchange of ideas, schools of thought and rules as seen in a happening luxurious city.
Quick side note: Black Box can mean one of two things. In different areas of study (Software and FDA Regulations respectively):
a) Black Box Testing refers to basically giving an input for an expected output without dealing with the internal workings of a software manually.
b) Under FDA warnings mentioned, any prescribed drug has a separate section outlined with a black box, mentioning the harmful side effects the drug might cause.
During the heist, we also see the dancer and the poet casually sitting in the havoc of a crowd which were exchanging their bags (read ideas, philosophies, theories etc.). It is almost as if the briefcase the poet had contained a secret that made them the igniting fire for the revolution.
In the end of the heist, we also observe a mimicry of a CCTV camera angle, as if to capture the models walking on a zebra crossing in the middle of a busy crossroad. The end of the crowd comprises the poet and the dancer, without any bags, which could mean that the whole outlook of society has changed for the better, creating an inclusive environment for everyone to live with, thus making the Black Box experiment successful.
I am not completely sure what Mirror Mirror as a title denotes, but in a vague terminology, it could mean the literal reflection of the new Neotype ideologies being used to create the garments.
In this sequence the models walk outside Paris on the voiceover music of Yasiin Bey titled Casa Bey, and later to Microwave Mayo by MF Doom. He also samples many of the famous tracks which are already sampled by other rappers, including UFO by ESG.
This depicts how the Art Heist is already happening, and has happened, in the hip-hop genre, and it has only brought positives with it. It is NOT stealing, rather, progressing together into a better world.
Phew, this was a long analysis. Have a look at Part 1: Ideologies to get a complete idea behind Abloh’s FW21 Collection.
This analysis would not have been this detailed without the study by Bliss Foster. Definitely have a look at his research for the collection as well.
References: LV FW21 Show Notes
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