Virgil Abloh new head of Louis V Menswear


Virgil Abloh, creator of luxury streetwear brand Off/White and former fashion consultant for Kanye West, has been appointed as artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear. Abloh, a Ghanaian-American, is one of the first designers of color to be appointed to such a prominent position in a French luxury fashion house. Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing is one of the only other minorities to hold such a post.

Abloh, and his label Off/White, have captured the attention of many for its fusion of streetwear silhouettes and motifs (hoodies, white diagonal stripes) with luxury fashion, earning Abloh nominations for Womenswear & Menswear Designer of the Year at the 2018 CFDA Awards and making him a finalist for LVMH’s 2015 Young Designers Prize. LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, is one of the world’s largest luxury conglomerates, and owns other luxury brands such as Christian Dior and Fendi.

Abloh first came in contact with the luxury company around 2006 when he interned at Fendi with Kanye West. Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, told the New York Times, “I was really impressed with how they [Abloh and West] brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way.”

While the disruptive ‘vibe’ Burke refers to is relatively new to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, it is no new concept within the realm of Black culture. For years, and especially since the 1990s, rappers, designers, singers, and other creators of Hip-hop culture have made references to luxury designers like LV in their work. Much of mainstream hip-hop culture today revolves around tropes of luxury and wealth as departures from the poverty and hardships often faced by people of color and those in inner cities.

In a report published by Neilsen, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement Cheryl Grace said “Our research shows that Black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color but the mainstream as well.”

Abloh’s appointment is exciting for the sake of representation, but also because he consciously represents and reflects an urban culture that many believe to be far removed from high-end fashion. Louis Vuitton’s hugely successful 2017 collaboration with New York-based streetwear brand Supreme points to the advantage of fusing these two seemingly opposed styles.

With his experience and the support of LVMH, Kanye West, supermodel Naomi Campbell (who closed Off/White’s spring 2018 show), and 1.7 million Instagram followers, there is no doubt that Abloh will steer Louis Vuitton menswear in a new direction. His first show will take place in June during Mens Fashion Week.

Dominque Brodie