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Business of Luxury: What can Virgil Abloh do as new Louis Vuitton menswear Artistic Director

Ghanaian American designer, DJ and stylist Virgil Abloh came to prominence as Kanye West’s creative director. While his first fashion brand, Pyrex Vision, identified often through his signature screen-printed logos on Ralph Lauren rugby shirts was shuttered ignominiously, he soon returned (barely a year later) with another personal label – Off-White.

OFF-WHITE c/o VIRGIL ABLOH™ is a fashion label rooted in current culture with seasonal menswear and women’s collections inspired by the 37 year old Ghanaian-American’s perspectives on trends. Beyond streetwear, Abloh’s brand also offers a complete lifestyle symbolic of his vision – furniture and ready made goods, all made in Milan with products which differ from season to season.

Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collection

Considered by his peers as a visionary for cool, pop cultural references which contextualise the moment into garments of zeitgeist. Abloh not only became a finalist of the LVMH Young Designer Awards in 2015 through Off-White, he is also the first LVMH Young Designer finalist to take a major design role at an LVMH brand.

Impressively, the multi-hyphenate is not a formally trained designer, Virgil Abloh was an architectural and civil engineer by training taught the basics only by his mother, a seamstress. Incidentally, Abloh is also among a handful of black designers. He joins Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain and Ozwald Boateng, a tailor turned designer for Givenchy menswear from 2003 to 2007.

Virgil Abloh’s first label was not a success but barely a year later, Off-White became his calling card, sending his street cred into the stratosphere

Speaking to NYT, Abloh said, “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.”

Louis Vuitton’s new artistic director met Louis Vuitton’s Chief Executive Michael Burke 12 years ago during a six month internship with Kanye West at Fendi where Burke was then Fendi Chief, impressing Burke enough to keep track of his nascent career.

Virgil Abloh’s appointment was widely rumoured following a shakeup in the Louis Vuitton menswear department when Kim Jones, his predecessor artistic director left in January. Abloh’s appointment is also a reflection of the increasing consumer driven intermingling of luxury and streetwear like the Louis Vuitton Supreme and Gucci Dapper Dan collaborations which helped rocket global sales of luxury goods by US4325 billion according to Bain & Company.

Once considered for lead designer positions at Burberry and Versace, Abloh is notable for making political statements in an industry that rarely takes a stand for commercial reasons. Abloh has conceived fashion commentary on the immigrant crisis with artist Jenny Holzer.

As new Artistic Director, Abloh will debut his first Louis Vuitton menswear collection in June 2018 for Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Louis Vuitton is estimated to be LVMH’s top-money maker with annual sales of more than €9bn (£7.9bn), the largest in the luxury industry. 

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