This just in - Virgil Abloh, long-time designer for Kanye West and founder / creative director of Off-White, will be replacing Kim Jones as artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear.
Virgil Abloh founded his Milan-based label Off-White in 2012, a now-acclaimed brand that helped evolve streetwear into the modern fashion culture. Off-White was a leading brand that bridged the gap between streetwear and high fashion by making it luxury. Brands including Off-White and Supreme now bare the term "haute streetwear." Adored by celebrities including Rihanna, Kanye West, Drake, Justin Bieber, Gigi and Bella Hadid, and Kylie Jenner, Off-White (with its 3.1 million Instagram followers) is absolutely everywhere.
As the first black artistic director of LV Menswear, Virgil will take over one of the most historic and predominant luxury European fashion houses of all time. Given that he is acclaimed for his influence in the streetwear fashion scene, this is a very big achievement for the 37 year old Ghanaian / American designer. Abloh's appointment was rumoured for months when Kim Jones announced his departure from LV in January. Jones will now become the head menswear designer at Dior, replacing Kris van Assche.
Born in Rockford, Illinois, Virgil Abloh studied engineering and architecture while having an interest in fashion on the side. After graduating, he met Kanye West while working as a DJ, which remains one of his favourite hobbies to this day. Virgil and Kanye became friends when he started designing the rapper's merchandise. During this time, he also interned at Fendi where he met Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton's chairman and CEO. Burke speaks very highly of the designer and his new position, praising that Abloh's "innate creativity and disruptive approach have made him so relevant, not just in the world of fashion but in popular culture today."
"I feel elated," explained Abloh when discussing his new position at Louis Vuitton. "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,. 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."
Famous for his Off-White collaborations, Abloh has released several collections with numerous leading luxury and street brands including Nike, Jimmy Choo, and Moncler. Most recently, Virgil partnered up with Takashi Murakami, Japanese contemporary artist and frequent collaborator with Louis Vuitton, for a show at London's Gagosian Gallery.
There has been a shift in the fashion industry. The merge of haute couture and streetwear has been evident in the past few years, but this leap is an enormous one. The blend of the traditional and the contemporary is growing at a rapid pace - and the appointment of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton will not slow it down.
There have been mixed opinions over what the brand will become. Some were thrilled to hear the news that the innovate, edgy designer will take LV's creative reigns. Times are changing, and fashion changes with it. The unity of two worlds is exciting - not just between luxury fashion and streetwear, but the integration of young and old. Abloh's Off-White label appeals to a youthful, modern demographic that Louis Vuitton struggles to reach. Could the appointment of Abloh be the best decision LVMH has ever made? Will Louis Vuitton break out of its complacent traditions and flourish down this new rabbit hole?
Other fashion lovers and insiders are not so sure. Louis Vuitton, a historic fashion house, rich in classic luxury and a reputation of exuding timelessness, will definitely go in a different direction. There is no doubt that Abloh's roots in streetwear and contemporary aesthetics will play a large role in his future designs for LV. But is this necessarily a good move? Must we modernize everything? Does fashion need a fundamental line between luxury and streetwear? If so, where do we draw it? The "hypeness" of streetwear is so prominent in this day in age that one must worry for the future of fashion. Will clout and fame triumph originality and artistry? We can only keep our fingers crossed and pray that it doesn't.
Amidst the swarm of opinions, we must wonder what will happen to one of the world's largest and important fashion houses - now that it is in the hands of a designer with no formal fashion training. It's an intriguing and exciting kind of apprehension, as this new change has the ability to lead the entire industry in one of two ways. We are eager to find out which way it will go. Virgil Abloh will debut his first collection for Louis Vuitton at Paris Men's Fashion Week this June - until then, we will impatiently wait at the edge of our seats.
By: Isabel de Carteret