African Punk: Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring 2017

Paris was burning this morning, as we sat under clear plastic sheeting in the beautiful Palais Royal gardens, next to the infamous Buren columns. The blistering heat was a fitting complement to Louis Vuitton’s African-tinged collection, which owed as much to the Serengeti plains as it did to Kings Road in 1970s London — which is to say, a heady mash-up of punk, biker, and safari.

Kim Jones, men’s artistic director at Vuitton, cited Frank Marshall’s Renegades portrait series of Botswana biker gangs as the punk influence, although it felt more UK homegrown given his own past. Jones cut his teeth at Alexander McQueen before moving to Dunhill, and finally to Vuitton in 2011.

For the second time, Jones worked with London art-star bad boys Jake and Dinos Chapman, who provided scrawled illustrations of giraffes and zebras. They sat front row and chatted with Kate Moss and David Beckham before the show. With all conversation seemingly focused on the Brexit vote today, and an almost resolute cry of “remain” throughout the creative industry, this was togetherness in harmony — a beautiful multiracial casting and a marriage of punk utilitarian with Vuitton’s trunk-making heritage. Or as the show notes stated: “tartan walking hand-in-hand with Maasai checks; the hand crafts of Africa link to French savoir faire.”

The standout punk-inspired mohair sweaters reflecting giraffe and antelope prints were refreshing and startlingly effective, as were the impeccably made silver punk accessories, with heavy locks, chains, chokers, feathers, and keys all vying for attention. Those locks, or Lockits, were made in association with UNICEF and are available on their site already, with $200 from each sale going to help fight AIDS in South Africa.

Backstage, Jones spoke of “traveling back to the blueprint, using the old to create something new,” a comment that felt very now. We want conversations that transcend borders and continents, and we know that we’re all stronger in this together. 

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