The worldview of Yanagi Sōetsu, famed Japanese art critic and philosopher, can be completely and succinctly surmised in the title of his collected essays: The Beauty of Everyday Things. This is very unusual! Philosophers make a living out of the complicated topics that make insomniacs of the rest of us, and thus trade in ideas that take four or five repeat reads/migraines, like Wittgenstein and Heidegger. But not Yanagi. For him, there really was an incomparable beauty in everyday things; the functional stuff we often deem to be 'normal' and, as such, exempt from the abnormal world of curated, intentional art.
It's a digestible theory. We get it, and we yes, still feel smart. So you can pick it up and apply it to almost anything. Even Louis Vuitton. And although men's creative director Virgil Abloh didn't release a year-end list of recommended reading ('tis a shame), The Beauty of Everyday Things might well've sat near the top as the house's pre-fall 2021 line-up examines conventional menswear; clothes that are "banal by virtue... a traditional sartorial wardrobe inherited by some and aspiration to others" or so says an early release of the collection notes. After cloudscape suits and fluoro overseas cargo, Louis Vuitton is getting normal. We see this stuff everyday.
Or at least it's Vuitton normal. After several standout shows, Abloh's turn at the storied French maison has been influential; we see Vuitton stuff everyday, from actual Vuitton, and from its copycats further downstream. And after cementing a recognisable, identifiable signature borne of the house codes and Abloh's own fingerprints, the creative director is reinventing these rules once more by looking at everyday things. He (and Yanagi) weren't lying.
There are suits. Very classic suits. Though they're boxier and better-fitting and a bit cooler than the in-office tailoring of the last generation, you can still see the salaryman in rich grey wools and razor-sharp lapels. There are crisp shirts. There are overcoats, and a peacoat. There's everything you'd want in your wardrobe ten years ago and ten years from now. Though it's menswear we see everyday, the beauty isn't lost. These bits and pieces, like the teapots and rice bowls Yanagi so loved, are "constant companions in life" and "should be made with care and built to last". Abloh can see the value in that.
A pilot jacket sits on the kernel; black, shearling, with little else to distract us from what is simply a great, rock solid winter coat. The same can be said for a bomber jacket, and a blouson, and a sensible, Catholic school pair of leather derby shoes. But know that there are two 'normals' at play here. Asymmetrical monogram leather panels lift classic coats, and there are pops of Abloh's atypicality everywhere else, in Cuban chains, in tie-dye, and Damier salt prints that, once upon a time, were unwelcome in the retrograde world of Savile Row.
These things have slowly become normalised in menswear. The New Normal, as the show notes reference in their open – a term that has been bludgeoned into mulch by every section of society, retail and regional news imaginable. Here, though, Louis Vuitton isn't postfacing the word with any reference to Covid-19. This New Normal exists on its own terms, the brand (and the clothes) comfortable in a happy middle ground between the artefacts of the menswear canon, and the new classics of Abloh's creation. They're all now everyday things – and there's plenty beautiful about it.
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