WAITING TILL THE LAST MINUTE
With or without this new documentary, it took Louis Vuitton more than two months to ‘realise’ that Michael Jackson is probably the most risky association or maybe they waited till the documentary would be aired without any mention about the singer’s abuse of children. To be on the safe side, Louis Vuitton could surely afford to have a back-up so that not one T-shirt referencing Michael Jackson is actually sold for profit and be ready to immediately donate all proceeds to charities defending child abuse. Instead of sacking Abloh, like sister company CHRISTIAN DIOR did with John Galliano after his anti-semitic allegations recorded in a ‘framed’ incident.
The major difference is that, while Virgil Abloh is easily replaceable, history has proven DIOR has yet to find a REAL replacement of John Galliano’s calibre – during his tenure, Dior had no direct competitor neither for Haute Couture or Ready-To-Wear.
To make matters even worse, Louis Vuitton apparently assumed that while Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana ‘got away’ with the huge scandals they generated recently, an excuse will suffice. Vuitton has said ‘it will no longer produce any of the pieces that directly reference the performer’ (all of a sudden Michael Jackson is no longer an artist) after allegations of child sexual abuse in the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.
Mention should be made that of the three above mentioned brands, it is only Gucci that recovered very fast, thanks to the power of the brand. Prada’s reaction to create a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council almost went almost un-noticed for the brand which has been losing its desirability while experiencing worsening financials because of refusing to accept that Miuccia Prada herself must step down from her all-mighty Creative Direction role. As for Dolce& Gabbana, despite their marketing and PR ‘silence’, it will take time (long time) to recover from the China incident.
Before Abloh’s Louis Vuitton in Paris show, guests were also sent invitations on a single rhinestone-encrusted glove similar to those worn by Jackson, while the show’s New York-themed set inside a tent in the Tuileries gardens in Paris also drew heavily on the video for Billie Jean. His music also played intermittently throughout the show.
Louis Vuitton also ignored the early signs of Virgil Abloh’s gigantic teasing campaign of his first collection which debuted with a ‘surprise’ (every single detail was on Abloh’s Instagram) overt mockery of what Louis Vuitton stands for, in a garage-type of pop-up party in New York in the showroom of Chrome Hearts with ‘custom made’ logo-flooded aluminium furniture which, according to Hypebeast, sold for $150,000 USD.
During the event, Abloh exercised his live DJ-ing skills, while welcoming VIP guests such as…Martha Stewart, yes, another super-star celebrity who ended up in jail when her real side was unveiled. The only luxury brand probably unwillingly ‘promoted’ at this ‘pop-up event’ was Baccarat, with thousands of red roses in Baccarat vases – Baccarat was actually tagged in all posts and InstaStories.
To add to the unacceptable reaction of Louis Vuitton who has an army of highly experienced marketing, PR and communications professionals, Abloh was allowed to release his own statement in which he refers to Michael Jackson as an artist, while Louis Vuitton considers him a performer. Maybe a video apology like D&G would be better?!? “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. 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.”
After running an extensive social media campaign featuring children (mostly black), Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke also took a ‘powerful’ stance “We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing,” and added that “child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause.” Louis Vuitton signed a partnership with Unicef in 2016 with a campaign ironically entitled ‘Make a Promise’ advertising it extensively in 2016 and 2017, but slowly forgotten since 2017.
Sister brand Bvlgari, who ran an impeccably executed long-time collaboration with ‘Save The Children’ charity foundation, even creating a symbolic ring, with most of the proceeds from its sale being donated. Bvlgari campaigns and even store windows featured the charity campaign.
In an interview in the New Yorker’s 18 March issue, Abloh admitted he had not heard about the documentary, and insisted he had been intent on paying homage to “the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self”. Before the show, Abloh also described Jacksons “the most important innovator in menswear history” and “the ultimate muse”. He added: “We watched him grow, but he stayed a boy the whole time.”
TOO LATE ! NO EXCUSES !
Louis Vuitton’s decision to address the controversy surrounding its products make it the latest luxury fashion house to do so after a customer-led outcry on social media. There had been speculation about how the brand would handle the collection after the documentary, which aired on Channel 4 last week. Elsewhere, some radio stations have banned Jackson’s songs after the allegations of sexual abuse against children, and this week Transport for London said it would remove advertising that claimed Michael Jackson was innocent.
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