Alright folks, Louis Vuitton has done it! They recently made Virgil Abloh the artistic creative director of men’s wear. If his name doesn’t ring any bells with you, he is the founder of the street wear label “Off White,” and was a longtime creative director for the infamous Kanye West. He has become Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few Black designers at the top of a French heritage house. Apparently, there have been rumors swirling over the last couple of months about the decision, but they were unable to confirm it until recently. Abloh’s rise is quite the success story; he interned for 6 months at Fendi which is where he met Kanye.
Abloh, 37, is a first-generation Ghanaian-American who was raised in Illinois. Despite having no formal fashion education (his mother was a seamstress and taught him her trade; he studied architecture and civil engineering), he founded Off-White in 2013, almost a decade after he first meet Kanye and became his creative partner. In 2015, Off-White was a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize. Abloh will be the first LVMH finalist to take on a major design role in an LVMH brand.
A champion of the cross-branded collaboration, Abloh has worked with names as varied as Nike, Jimmy Choo, Moncler and in an upcoming project alongside Ikea. Most recently, he teamed up with Takashi Murakami, a frequent Vuitton collaborator. There are whispers circulating that he could be the man to make Louis Vuitton men’s wear more relevant — and more visible — to the millennial generation.
Abloh states that he would be focused on rethinking how the brand communicates with its consumers, including the release of products, the runway show and the way it interacts with the global political mood.
Certainly, Vuitton will give him a bigger platform than he has had. Men’s wear is currently sold in only about 150 of the 450 Vuitton stores around the world, though the company plans to increase that by between 25 and 28 stores. There are also 13 free-standing men’s stores, with six more planned this year, according to Mr. Burke.
That places a huge burden of expectation on his shoulders, especially given all the hype around his name — he was also mentioned for possible top positions at Burberry and Versace.
Abloh is not one to shy away from political statements, a tactic often seen as a risk for a luxury brand. Last year, during a guest appearance at the Florence men’s wear show, Pitti Uomo, he eschewed the traditional runway show and instead collaborated with the artist Jenny Holzer on a piece addressing the immigrant crisis.
He will show his first collection for Louis Vuitton during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.I never expected to see a Black man hold such a title at a luxury brand like Louis Vuitton. Hopefully this will become the norm in the fashion industry, so we can take the world by storm with creative ideas and inputs.