Off-White founder Becomes First Black Man in Men’s Design

Virgil Abloh becomes first black Men’s Wear Designer of Louis Vuitton

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Virgil Abloh becomes first black Men’s Wear Designer of Louis Vuitton

By: Cesar E. Gonzalez

 

A shift in the fashion world occured when  urban-wear founder Virgil Abloh, who founded the haute street label Off-White, was named the newest men’s wear Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Abloh, who also used to be the longtime creative director for Kanye West, had became the first Louis Vuitton artistic director that is African American, and a part of the very few black designers who have obtained successful titles in a French heritage house. Abloh has made plans to move himself and his family to Paris to work closely with the largest brand LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy). “This opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams,” Abloh said, “and to show a younger generation that there is no one way anyone in this kind of position has to look is a fantastically modern spirit in which to start.”

January of this year, Abloh’s predecessor, Kim Jones departed from the Louis Vuitton but instead would be positioned as LVMH designer for Christian Dior, who would be replacing Kris van Assche. The rise in the urban-streetwear sector helped account for a boost in consumer sales of luxury personal goods by five percent last year which is an estimated 263 billion euros ($325 billion in US dollars). The chief executive of LV, Michael Burke, stated, “Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist of the moment.”

The two men first met back in 2006 when Abloh spent six months interning at Fendi with Kanye West where Mr. Burke was then the chief executive. “I was really impressed with how they brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way,” Mr. Burke said, “Virgil could create a metaphor and a new vocabulary to describe something as old-school as Fendi. I have been falling his career ever since.”

Virgil Abloh, at the age of 37, is a first generation Ghanaian-American raised in Illinois. To give off familiar cultural currency when it came to fashion, Abloh is one of fashion’s new school stylists; he is a master of using self-awareness, irony, reference, celebrity influence, and even music to keep his fashion pieces current. Abloh never had an official “fashion education.” He studied architecture and civil-engineering. 2013 was the year he launched his “Off-White” brand, and in 2015 it became the first LV finalist for the LV Young Designers Prize, making Abloh the first finalist to take a major role in designing for LV brand. Off-White alone has 3.1 million Instagram followers and Mr. Abloh has about 1.6 million followers as well. He received the Urban Luxe award which was given to him at the British Fashion Awards last year. Abloh also has worked on collaborations with Nike, Jimmy Choo, Moncler, and even Ikea. One of his frequent collaborators  is Takashi Murakami who also frequently collabs with LV.

LV is planning to give Abloh a bigger than usual platform to design menswear, where the company generates sales currently sold in 150 of 450 stores, and the store plans to add 25-28 more stores world-wide. Mr. Abloh still plans to continue running Off-White and commented, “It is for the 17-year old version of myself, whereas Vuitton is for the 37-year old I am today.” He plans work with Mr. West once again, and putting aside his hobby of being a disc jockey, he plans to reveal his first collection for LV in Paris during Men’s Fashion week in June of 2018.