Virgil Abloh Talks About His Michael Jackson Inspiration for Louis Vuitton

Off-White and Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh is often lauded for his groundbreaking success in the fashion industry. Not only is Off-White one of the most commercially successful luxury brands in recent years, but Abloh’s appointment as artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear is also a milestone — he is the first black man appointed as artistic director for the brand.

His achievements are monumental, and were highlighted in a recent New Yorker profile of Abloh. While the profile showed his rise from architecture student to acclaimed fashion designer, it also appeared to reveal something that seems to happen way too often when it comes to accountability, inspiration, and the allegedly problematic lives of some of the creatives we’ve grown up loving, including Michael Jackson.

For Abloh’s second Louis Vuitton runway show in Paris, he chose a backdrop inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” music video. Also part of that collection were pieces inspired by how he says he feels while listening to the music as he creates. “When I have Michael Jackson singing in the background, it’s a different type of shirt, it’s a different kind of boot, it’s a different fit of pants,” he told The New Yorker.

But when asked by The New Yorker if he had heard about the recently aired HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which alleges sexual abuse by Jackson, Abloh said he hadn’t, and told the magazine he wanted to focus on “the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self.”

This approach, though, seems to be employed by too many fans of creative men who have been accused of wrongdoing in the #MeToo era. As Vox pointed out in 2018, loving the art created by an accused artist is normal, but to appear to not address allegations against them because you love their art is another thing. And when these inspirations are trickling in to other work, that could feel even more convoluted.

Take Lady Gaga’s song with R. Kelly for example. Despite the fact that “Do What U Want” is a song people like, Lady Gaga still removed it from streaming, understanding that it may be hurtful for survivors of sexual assault, considering abuse allegations against the singer.

Abloh’s creative inspiration can come from anywhere, because that’s what art is all about, but to appear to not address the very real allegations associated with that inspiration feels short-sighted. As one person wrote in response,”as much as I respect @virgilabloh and @LouisVuitton_US, i need them to make a statement regarding their last collection which was FULLY inspired by and honored #MichaelJackson. we need you to stand with survivors.”

Teen Vogue has reached out to Virgil Abloh for comment.

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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Virgil Abloh’s First Louis Vuitton Campaign Stars a Really Cute Toddler

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