Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton's artistic director of menswear, has not been shy about the impact Michael Jackson has had on his life and his designs. In a new profile for The New Yorker, after writer Doreen St. Felix points out the poor timing of Abloh's adulation. Now Abloh has spoken out to belatedly condemn the widespread allegations that Jackson sexually abused young boys — including Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the subjects of HBO's shocking, talked-about new documentary Leaving Neverland.
Abloh's inaugural show at Vuitton was called "We Are the World," named after Quincy Jones' classic 1985 charity single featuring Jackson and dozens of other music superstars. The second one was inspired by the 1978 film The Wiz a Black take on The Wizard of Oz (initially a Broadway show) starring Jackson and Diana Ross . The set for his fall 2019 collection, shown in Paris in January, was intended to recall Jackson's iconic 1982 music video for "Billie Jean," with some items on the runway referencing the late star. He admitted to listening to the so-called King of Pop while he designs. “When I have Michael Jackson singing in the background, it’s a different type of shirt, it’s a different kind of boot, it’s a different fit of pants,” he told The New Yorker.
But when St. Felix asked Kanye West's former longtime creative director if he had heard anything about Leaving Neverland, Abloh's response came off as more than a little tone deaf. Abloh replied that he is focused on “the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self.”
On Thursday, following a backlash, Abloh and Vuitton addressed the documentary further. “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 exclusively to WWD.
“We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing,” added Michael Burke, Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause.”
Of his most recent men's show in January that referenced the singer, saying: “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 said in Thursday’s statement.
Louis Vuitton will not produce any items “that directly features Michael Jackson elements” and tells WWD that that the collection, when it reaches stores, would “purely reflect the true values of the brand and of our artistic director.”