By LAUREN FLEISHMAN/The New York Times/Redux.
Virgil Abloh, who parlayed a gig as Kanye West’s creative director into pop-fashion ubiquity in recent years with his label Off-White (and its orgiastic approach to cross-brand collaboration), has been called up to the designer major leagues. Abloh will take over the helm as artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, a role that was left vacant after the departure of Kim Jones in January, the company said Monday. Abloh will be the first African-American designer for the famed French luxury house.
“I feel elated,” Abloh told The New York Times on Sunday. “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
Vuitton seems to be an exceptionally suitable landing spot for Abloh, who has helped launch a movement of luxury streetwear with Off-White with the help of collaborations with Jimmy Choo, Nike, and even Ikea. The 164-year-old luxury house had recently followed suit with its fall 2017 menswear collection, which featured crossover designs between the label and the ultimate streetwear brand Supreme.
Since its 2013 founding, Off-White made its name by embracing humor, pop culture, and overt references. The label’s spring collection took advantage of the renewed hype for the royal family and pop culture’s recent obsession with 90s nostalgia, specifically the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. The late royal’s 90s wardrobe was refreshed into the new millennium, reinvigorating the trends an older generation longs for while also introducing the style icon to a new generation who are understanding her impact for the first time.
The label, with its group of young disciples including the Bella Hadids and Rihannas of the world, along with a deeply devoted fanbase of millennials and gen Z-ers, has placed itself comfortably in the center of the streetwear-high fashion Venn Diagram with perfect timing. Buying directors for the online luxury retailer Ssense told Vogue that Off-White has been a top performer for them. Ssense’s Brigitte Chartrand said, “The kids, they idolize him, he’s such a reference for them.”
Abloh’s start with fashion effectively began after he met West and became the rapper-cum-designer’s creative director in 2002. With West, he collaborated on the artist’s merchandise, album visuals, and more.
“For the last eight to 10 years we’ve been having this conversation about what’s new, and for me, that has to do with making luxury relatable across generations,” said Abloh. “The first thing I am going to do is define new codes. My muse has always been what people actually wear, and I am really excited to make a luxury version of that.”
The Rockford, Illinois-raised Abloh, who did not study fashion, but earned degrees in architecture and civil engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also told the New York Times that he plans on relocating his family to Paris to take up the new
Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s creative director since 2013, will still be in charge of the brand’s women’s collections while Abloh will also continue to lead design at Off-White, which he described as “the 17-year-old version of myself, whereas Vuitton is for the 37-year-old I am today.” Abloh will present his first collection for Louis Vuitton during Paris men’s fashion week in June.
“I want to use Louis Vuitton’s history with travel to really look at different cultures around the world to help make all our humanity visible,” he said. “When creativity melds together with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together. Fashion on this level can really open eyes.”