Since helming Louis Vuitton's Artistic Director's role in 2018, Virgil Abloh has consistently steered new fashion territories in the luxury French house. The men's pre-spring 2021 collection of a new pair of sneakers, 'A View' is testament to this. As an insider with intimate knowledge of skateboarding (having skateboarded since he was eight), Abloh worked closely with professional skateboarder Lucien Clarke to come up with a collection that successfully marries fashion with the sport. The result is a pair of skateboarding shoes that incorporates “flexibility, durability and comfort.”
To Abloh, “Youth culture shapes the way we understand style and fashion growing up. In that sense, skateboarding is an inseparable part of contemporary fashion.” Louis Vuitton sought out five rising skateboarders in Singapore, and Yahoo Lifestyle SEA got chatting with them.
This group of passionistas, ranging from 19 to 26, shared their hopes and aspirations for the skateboarding community and how the sport has helped mould their characters.
Unlocking the door for future generations
Speaking on being the first African-American man to helm the luxury brand’s men’s department, Abloh shares, "… as a Black man in a French luxury house. I'm more aware of my responsibilities… I hope to lead by example and unlock the door for future generations." Indeed, for an African-American designer with streetwear design background, it is no small feat for Abloh to ease into a luxury house that started way back in 1854.
Similarly, the group has faced some mini struggles of their own since skateboarding does not enjoy the clout usually associated with sports like football. However, that is all set to change now that skateboarding has been initiated into the Olympics.
Pushing boundaries and weaving dreams
In his bold visualisations of Louis Vuitton's marketing for Men's SS21 collection, Abloh cleverly uses images to overthrow "the spectator's preconceived ideas, overwrite embedded race associations, and tackle prejudice on a subconscious level." On the same note, John Marie hopes that with the sport’s newly-minted Olympic status, the public will finally view skateboarding as a legitimate sport.
Through the sport, these skateboarders have made firm friendships with not just one another but many others within the skateboarding community. Not only that, their love of skateboarding has also allowed them to seek out their career paths. Azyan Azman represented Singapore in Asian Skateboarding Championships@Shanghai 2016 and managed to clinch second place, right below Japan's Aori Nishimura. She was also in Team Singapore in SEA GAMES 2019. Such opportunities have allowed her to travel, widen her horizons and make friends from all around the world. “My biggest dream is to travel around the world and show the world what skateboarding is about.
While Nur Qashdina and Marie had the chance to endorse Vans Singapore, National Serviceman Rezza Nasrullah and Marie also share another passion – skateboarding videography. A student of Lasalle’s Broadcast Media, Marie aspires to be a well-known filmmaker for skateboarding, a ‘Skatefilmer’ as he calls it. Similarly, Nasrullah is eyeing to become a professional of another sorts in the skateboarding community, “I think of it [skateboarding] as an art, I love editing skate videos and want to be a professional filmmaker.” The baby of the group Lee Ming Yew, at only 19, wishes to get into any profession that allows him to live and breathe skateboarding when he finishes school. He puts it aptly, “We are constantly pushing our boundaries and chasing our dreams.”
Against all odds
The inclusion of skateboarding into the Olympics and opening up of female categories created new opportunities for a sport that was predominantly male-led. Nur Qashdina explained. "Before that, there wasn't any category that a female could join during competitions. It was always an open category."
However, all five chimed in that there's no difference in the execution of techniques the male and female genders face. As Marie puts it, "Skateboarding has no gender, race or colour”. This draws parallels to how Abloh surmounted all odds and became the 167-year-old French dame's very first African-American Artistic Director. This spirit of "against all odds" is shared by the skateboarders who persevered in their passion.
Now that skateboarding is in the Olympics, those whose families like Lee Ming Yew, John Marie and Azyan Azman, who were initially resistant to their love of the sport, are warming up to the idea.
Despite the challenges, this group agreed that they feel the freest and happiest when skateboarding. Their passion towards skateboarding pushes them to do better every day. For Qashdina, it is the "progression" and "connection" with like-minded people that keeps her going. "I feel skateboarding culture is open-minded and friendly. What kept me on my board are my friends." The group also invites anyone – of all ages, races and proficiency levels – to join them at the skating park to have fun together.
Reminiscing the pre-covid days when Qashdina made frequent overseas skateboarding trips to China, Malaysia and Bali, with like-minded friends, the group has set their sights on skating in parks such as MACBA in Barcelona and LES Coleman Skatepark in New York City.
Innovation during the pandemic
True to his limitless imagination, Abloh set his team a task during the downtime at the height of the pandemic – to explore innovation through sustainability. According to the luxury house, select pieces from “The Spring-Summer 2021 Men’s collection is founded in four methods of upcycling: new looks made from recycled material, looks repeated from the Fall-Winter 2020 collection, looks freely created by the studio during the lockdown using recycled material, and new looks created from existing ideas. These principles set the premise for the evolution of the collection.”
This was also how the red containers at ION Orchard was birthed. Titled ‘Message in a Bottle’, the red containers are a unique solution to the unprecedented times we are living in today. Instead of lamenting about the inability to get everyone to Paris for the show presentation due to the pandemic, Abloh decided to bring the Spring-Summer 2021 collection to people via the idea of a sea voyage, travelling from Paris to Shanghai and Tokyo, where physical fashion shows took place last August and September respectively. At the same time, weaving in a touch of whimsicality about a group of stowaways in the form of Zoooom and Friends, who are creatively incorporated into the Men's Spring-Summer 2021 collection.
You may have seen many #OOTDs shot in front of these distinctive larger-than-life Louis Vuitton containers on social media since its installation on 28 January. This showcase is meant to be a "free and inclusive dialogue between the House and its audiences" – thereby reinforcing Abloh's core values of diversity, inclusivity and unity. The same hopes and dreams the skateboarding community wishes to achieve.
Dare to dream
In the same vein, skateboarding like fashion knows no boundaries. While dreams of travelling and skating in Spain and New York City may be put on hold for now, the common theme between the brand and the skateboarders of 'Dare to dream’ comes through loud and clear. Abloh has truly helped opened doors for future generations.
Check out the Louis Vuitton container installation at ION Orchard and see for yourself the brilliance in the luxury house’s Men’s Spring-Summer 2021 Collection at #01-23. Visit local photographer Lee Yik Keat’s Instagram account for tutorials on taking creative #OOTD shots by the installation. Installation is until 20 February.
In partnership with Louis Vuitton.