Today, LVMH-owned French fashion house Louis Vuitton announced Virgil Abloh, a leading name in the industry’s streetwear-focused movement, as its new artistic director of menswear.
Abloh is the founder of Off-White, the men’s and womenswear brand founded in 2013. The label quickly rose to prominence and gained a cult-like following that spanned demographics, selling £400 jersey hoodies and £500 denim jackets with signature eye-catching chevron graphics, via retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Matchesfashion. Off-White won the Urban Luxe award at the British Fashion Awards in 2017.
The American designer trained as an architect but made his move into the industry working closely with singer Kanye West, most prominently as West’s creative director. Despite a number of high profile “internships” at brands such as Italian luxury house Fendi, Abloh has no formal fashion training. Before Off-White he was behind short-lived labels Been Trill and Pyrex.
Abloh’s much-hyped success has permeated into a range other projects. He is a successful DJ and has put on several art exhibitions, most recently in London in collaboration with artist Takashi Murakami. His collaboration with sportswear giant Nike on a range of 10 trainers was a hysteria-creating success, while other link-ups have included Jimmy Choo and Moncler, alongside an upcoming range with homeware store Ikea.
As well as working closely with Kanye West, Abloh has built a broad circle of celebrity supporters as well as his own following, and has more than 1.5 million followers on his personal Instagram.
He will now head up one of the industry’s biggest and oldest luxury brands’ menswear collections, showing his first range during Paris Fashion Week Men’s in June. He is Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director in its 164-year history and will become one of just a few of designers of colour working at the top of the fashion industry.
At Louis Vuitton, he succeeds Kim Jones, the designer who famously bought the beginnings of a streetwear flair to Louis Vuitton’s menswear and scored the now-notorious collaboration with underground label Supreme. This month Jones announced his move to Dior Homme as artistic director.
Abloh’s appointment is the latest in a series of high-profile moves that solidifies the important merging of the casual streetwear style with the top end of luxury fashion – a shift spearheaded by brands such as Abloh’s Off-White and the Vetements label, and picked up on by Gucci, Balenciaga and Burberry, among others.
The interesting appointment by LVMH, much rumoured but seen as not plausible by some, indicates the conglomerate’s shift in strategy that confirms luxury fashion’s future within the streetwear sphere.
The hype around brand Abloh is only set to grow. At his most recent Paris Fashion Week show, riotous crowds formed outside the venue, and LVMH will undoubtedly be wanting to bring this level of excitement to Louis Vuitton’s menswear offer.
However, while Abloh has been elevating his Off-White brand in recent seasons, adding tulle dresses and tailoring to its offer, it will be interesting to see how he translates his signature style to one of the industry’s biggest luxury brands. He will undoubtedly bring a new and extremely loyal customer to Louis Vuitton, but will the brand’s core luxury shopper warm to Abloh?
And while LVMH does not seem believe there is an end in sight for the luxury-meets-streetwear trend, Abloh will have to work hard to build a strong foundation that can carry Louis Vuitton through the hype and onto a successful future.