UPDATED 3/15, 3:15 p.m. EST: Louis Vuitton is removing the Michael Jackson-themed pieces from its 2019 summer menswear line, bound for stores in June. The move comes after controversy ignited by the HBO doc Leaving Neverland. Designer Virgil Abloh recently spoke out against "any form of child abuse, violence or infringement against any human rights."
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Following Louis Vuitton's men's fall runway show in January, a wave of backlash befell artistic director Virgil Abloh for his decision to seemingly devote the collection to the late Michael Jackson. As audiences were preparing to confront the late pop star's alarming history with sexual assault in the chilling HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, Abloh was honoring Jackson's legacy to an arguably defiant extent.
The Jackson-related criticisms were reignited on Monday following the release of the Abloh's extensive profile in the New Yorker, in which he upheld his choice to remember "the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self."
In a statement to WWD on Thursday, Abloh acknowledged the severity of the allegations detailed in the documentary. "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," he continued. "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."
Michael Burke, LV's chief executive officer, further elaborated on their joint position, echoing Abloh's statement in the New Yorker that the company was "unaware" of Leaving Neverland at the time of the men's Vuitton show in January. "We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing," Burke said. "Child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause."
The fall 2019 men's Louis Vuitton show was held at the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Abloh, who sits at the creative helm of the collections, commissioned a rendering of a New York City sidewalk at night, meant to resemble the set of Michael Jackson's 1983 "Billie Jean" video. As models made their way down the runway, the collection received glowing reviews from fashion critics and industry leaders alike. However, when the HBO documentary was released seven days later, it prompted some to question how Abloh and Louis Vuitton would move forward with their latest men's collection.
WWD reported that the French luxury house will not produce the fall 2019 pieces that directly reference Jackson's signature wardrobe. Although they have yet to specify on which looks meet that criteria, it will likely include the T-shirt illustrating the late pop star's white socks and loafers, as well as his trademark sparkle gloves.