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Louis Vuitton lands on the Lower East Side
ON July 12, on the same intersection depicted on the cover of the Beastie Boys album Paul's Boutique, Louis Vuitton arrived on the Lower East Side. "There goes the neighbourhood," said a woman standing on the cater-corner, as if the Hotel on Rivington hadn't done that a decade and a half ago.
No, there's something a little bit trickier happening at this pop-up, which continues through Sunday, or whenever the store runs dry of product. Since ascending to the post of artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear division last year, Virgil Abloh has used the platform to disentangle luxury from its old connotations, be they cultural, aesthetic or even geographical.
And so this is less of a beachhead incursion than a conceptual prompt. The corner-store location is painted in a loud neon green. Again, I emphasise: The whole of the exterior and everything on the inside is painted a loud neon green.
Abloh suggested on his Instagram that people use the outer wall like a green screen and make some kind of video art. Some did. Online others proposed turning it into a canvas for . . . unauthorised artistic collaboration, though security made that difficult.
This is the second such pop-up opened in tandem with the release of the Vuitton fall 2019 collection. (The first, in Chicago, was orange-themed.) Access is granted the way it might be at a hot new restaurant trying to display humility - someone takes your cell number and then texts you when you are allowed to come stand in line, an hour or two or who knows how long later. A tactic of dissuasion as much as anything,
People are allowed in one at a time, each greeted by an attendant/tour guide. Inside, the store is laid out like a messy teenager's room - a PlayStation (with controller) connected to the TV, a rogue coffee mug sitting on a radiator, a guitar and amp. A clerk told me everything had been hand-dipped in paint, including the plants, which looked like the kind of unkillable corner-fillers one gets at Home Depot.
Coming through the speakers was music from Ellie Goulding, Juice WRLD, Blanco Brown. Life-size and lifelike mannequins in Louis Vuitton clothing dotted the space, frozen in the cultural moment.
On offer is a narrow slice of the current season's collection. Hanging against the back wall was one of the most striking pieces - a military-style cropped jacket with several pouches extending off the front, all done in the signature brown LV logo leather, a kind of sideways nod to Dapper Dan (US$6,550).
Throughout the collection, Abloh plays with the brand's iconography in clever ways. On a dark-grey shearling overcoat, the logo was debossed throughout (US$18,600), and a grey puffy cashmere-flannel overcoat had puffy patches that were stitched with artisan-and-tool imagery that Abloh found in the company archive (US$5,200). Some items moved quickly: A pair of purple mid-top LV Trainers sold out almost immediately.
The most meaningful piece, however, was among the most modest - a T-shirt covered in illustrations of young black men wearing Louis Vuitton clothing and walking the streets of New York (US$655). It captured Abloh's high-wire act neatly: Make the clothing you want to see in the world, and make the world you want to see in your clothing. NYTIMES