At his fall 2019 menswear show for Louis Vuitton this January, Virgil Abloh debuted a series of pieces inspired by Michael Jackson. Models, including Alton Mason, donned Jackson's signature fedoras, white silk shirts, black loafers, embellished white socks, red jackets and a purple silk military-inspired shirt, walking on a cityscape resembling the "Billie Jean" music video. The collection also included a T-shirt printed with Michael Jackson's loafer-clad feet and items referencing The Wiz. The invitations to the show were sparkly gloves.
In the wake of an ongoing cultural reckoning with Jackson's alleged child abuse ignited by HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, both Abloh and Louis Vuitton have responded to concerns about their celebration of the pop star. According to WWD, Louis Vuitton has confirmed that it will not sell items "that directly features Michael Jackson elements."
"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" Abloh said in a statement released to PAPER. "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."
Abloh spoke about Michael Jackson in his recent New Yorker profile. He described how Jackson inspires him but said he hadn't he hadn't heard about Leaving Neverland and wanted to focus on "the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self."
Louis Vuitton emphasized that the collection has "multiple inspirations" and that the documentary has caused the fashion house "the greatest pain." They've stated that the fashion house was unaware of the documentary at the time of the show.
"We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing," said Michael Burke, Chairman & CEO of Louis Vuitton. "Child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause."
Leaving Neverland details the allegations against Jackson from Wade Robeson and James Safechuck, who say that Michael Jackson groomed and sexually abused them for years, starting when they were 7 and 10 years old respectively.