March 14, 2019

Louis Vuitton's Michael Jackson-inspired collection's future is in question after the release of shocking 'Leaving Neverland' documentary

LVMH Virgil Abloh Michael Jackson Neverland

On January 17th, Louis Vuitton presented Virgil Abloh’s second menswear show for the brand. The collection was inspired by Michael Jackson, and received rave reviews from industry insiders. Eight days later, Leaving Neverland debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The two-part documentary sees two of Michael Jackson’s victims detail the abuse they suffered at the hands of the iconic pop star. The fallout hasn’t quite taken full effect but raises questions as to how LVMH and Abloh will react. 

While the collection is inspired by Michael Jackson’s life and style, Abloh told the New Yorker in a recent feature that he wanted to focus on “the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self.” Claiming not to have heard about the documentary. Regardless of whether Abloh or Louis Vuitton were aware of the extent of Jackson’s crimes, the question remains: what happens now?

The options

Two obvious options stand: to pull the entire collection, showing the brand to be pioneering in their approach to handling celebrities with problems; or to leave the collection as it is, potentially suffering from bad sales and backlash from the public. Anne Hunter, executive vice president of strategy and growth at Kantar Consulting notes that “If the clothes stand on their own… they can still be a success, there may be less willingness for shoppers to want to wear clothing that signals allegiance to the performer. A great, white, blousy shirt inspired by Jackson is desirable as a fashion item on its own and should still do well. A shirt with Michael Jackson’s image may not.”

Abloh’s stance on those surrounding sexual abuse

Virgil has not been quick to distance himself from the controversy surrounding topics of sexual abuse. The statement around Michael Jackson ultimately failed to address the severity of the allegations. In other instances that predate this recent controversy with Jackson, Ian Connor is another example of somebody whom Abloh has kept in the shadows. The stylist has been accused on several fronts for sexual assault. Despite countless calls from the public, Abloh never addressed his relationship with Connor.

The decision to be made by Louis Vuitton is not an easy one, but will provide valuable insight as to whether an artist’s work and creative legacy can be separated from their personal life.

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