There were tears on the catwalk as the final Louis Vuitton show by US designer Virgil Abloh, whose death shocked the industry last year, drew rapturous applause at Paris fashion Week.
The multi-talented DJ, architect and designer died in November at the age of 41 following a private battle with cancer.
A close associate of Kanye West, Abloh was the first black American to be named creative director of a top French fashion house and brought streetwear and a less elitist approach to the world of luxury.
His final menswear show was built around an elaborate "Dreamhouse" concept with elaborately dressed angels and breakdancing models.
There was a typical blend of street and high style, with skirts, laces and heels -- and even an outfit that evoked a wedding dress topped with a cap -- showing his disregard for gender boundaries.
"I don't believe in gender, I believe in design," Abloh was quoted as saying in the show notes.
At the end, when the designer would traditionally take a bow, his team emerged instead, bringing the audience to their feet, many with tears in their eyes.
SUCH A WASTE
Dior designer Kim Jones paid tribute to the man who replaced him at the helm of Louis Vuitton back in 2018.
"It's going to be very emotional," Jones said ahead of the show.
"(Virgil and I) travelled the world together. I feel very lucky to have known him. It's such a waste to think what he would have done.
"He planned everything so perfectly up to the last minute. You have to commend him, he was so brave in it," Jones added.
Louis Vuitton says the final collection was 95 percent ready at the time of Abloh's death.
That has bought the company time in finding a replacement for the coveted job -- though it will not be easy to match Abloh's street-cred.
"It's a choice that requires audacity -- just as the choice of Virgil was audacious," said Serge Carreira, a fashion specialist at Sciences Po university in Paris.
Abloh, who ran his own wildly popular Off-White label before joining Louis Vuitton, was one of the pioneers of collaborations between brands, hooking up with Nike, Evian and even Ikea.
Bianca Saunders, an up-and-coming black British designer who presented her first show at Paris fashion Week on Wednesday, said: "What Virgil gave to a lot of people is showing them how to be multi-disciplinary and not afraid to create whatever you wanted.
"That was really powerful. He's had an impact on so many people's lives and when I met him, he was such a nice person," she told AFP.
Among the many candidates rumoured to fill Abloh's shoes are his former collaborators Samuel Ross and Heron Preston, Reebok designer Kerby Jean-Raymond and British artistic director Grace Wales Bonner.
Kanye's name has also been in the mix.
Louis Vuitton is auctioning 200 pairs of Nike Air Force 1 trainers, designed by Abloh -- with a starting price of $2,000.
The money will go to its "Post-Modern" foundation, which sponsors fashion students from African and Afro-American backgrounds. - AFP