Two months after showing an autumn/winter 2019 collection inspired by Michael Jackson, the French fashion house Louis Vuitton has said it will no longer produce any of the pieces that directly reference the performer after allegations of child sexual abuse in the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.
The January menswear show, which took place just over a week before the documentary’s premiere at Sundance, featured several pieces that paid homage to the performer that were then intended to go on sale in the summer. These include a pleated shendyt similar to that worn by Jackson in the Remember the Time video; a collection of flag-print pieces inspired by We are the World; a jumper, hoodie and a shirt and trousers with cartoon figures from The Wiz, the 1978 all-black musical version that starred Jackson; a T-shirt printed with an image of the singer’s loafers and socks; and a jacket based on the three-zip red version worn by Jackson in the video for Beat It.
Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
Before the show, guests were also sent invitations on a single rhinestone-encrusted glove similar to those worn by Jackson, while the show’s New York-themed set inside a tent in the Tuileries gardens in Paris also drew heavily on the video for Billie Jean. His music also played intermittently throughout the show.
On Thursday, Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director at Vuitton, released a statement to the fashion news site WWD, saying: “I am aware that in light of this documentary the show has caused emotional reactions. I strictly condemn any form of child abuse, violence or infringement against any human rights.
“My intention for this show was to refer to Michael Jackson as a pop culture artist. It referred only to his public life that we all know and to his legacy that has influenced a whole generation of artists and designers.”
Michael Burke, the label’s chairman and chief executive officer, also told WWD: “We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing,” and added that “child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause.”
Representatives for Louis Vuitton stressed the revelations had caused the label “the greatest pain”. It also said it had been unaware of the documentary at the time of the show. When asked for further comment, Louis Vuitton directed the Guardian to the statement provided to WWD.
In an interview in the New Yorker’s 18 March issue, Abloh admitted he had not heard about the documentary, and insisted he had been intent on paying homage to “the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self”. Before the show, Abloh also described Jackson as “the most important innovator in menswear history” and “the ultimate muse”. He added: “We watched him grow, but he stayed a boy the whole time.”
Louis Vuitton’s decision to address the controversy surrounding its products make it the latest luxury fashion house to do so after a customer-led outcry on social media. There had been speculation about how the brand would handle the collection after the documentary, which aired on Channel 4 last week.
Elsewhere, some radio stations have banned Jackson’s songs after the allegations of sexual abuse against children, and this week Transport for London said it would remove advertising that claimed Michael Jackson was innocent.