Having just been bagged the Menswear Artistic Director job at Louis Vuitton, here's everything you need to know about the American designer...
Who is Virgil Abloh?
The son of Ghanaian immigrants, Abloh was born in 1980 and raised in a middle-class suburb of Chicago in Illinois. His father managed a paint company while his mother worked as a seamstress. Growing up, Abloh played varsity soccer and at the weekends DJ'ed under the moniker "Flat White." He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin and later completed a graduate degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In his free time, Abloh made graphic t-shirts which he sold on his own website. In 2003, having found out where Kanye West screen-printed his merchandise, Abloh decided to incorporate West's G.O.O.D. Music logo on a line he decided to design for him voluntarily. Having caught the eye of the shop owner, Abloh later persuaded him to call West’s then-manager. A month later, West hired Abloh. He still works closely with him to this day. In 2009, the duo interned at Fendi, before launching Pyrex Vision in 2013 where they took dead-stock Champion and Ralph Lauren tops and screen-printed the word "Pyrex" onto them before selling them for $550 apiece. Speaking to the Business of Fashion, Abloh said: "We saw kids from Harlem presenting Rick Owens and Raf Simons in a different way that connected directly to culture and Pyrex Vision became the aesthetic of that....“[Until then] high-fashion was dictating what was happening in culture and for the first time that had been reversed by this generation of influential kids. That, in turn, affected the market.” A year later, it was voluntarily shuttered and Abloh launch his own-brand "Off-White." In March 2018, Abloh was announced as the new Menswear Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton, succeeding Kim Jones.
Who has Virgil Abloh collaborated with?
A champion of collabs, Abloh has worked with Nike, Jimmy Choo, Levi's, Moncler, VLONE and Warby Parker. He has recently teamed up with Ikea on a highly anticipated homeware line to be released later this year. And just this month, he worked with the artist Takashi Murakami for a show at the Gagosian Gallery in London.
Who has worn Off-White?
Everyone from Beyonce to the Hadids, Kendall Jenner to Drake and ASAP Rocky have been snapped in Off-White. The brand is one of MatchesFashion.com's best performing brands while sales at Selfridges have increased 230% year-on-year. The brand made its debut appearance on the official Paris Fashion Week schedule for Spring 2014 and in 2015 was named a finalist in the LVMH prize. Last year, Abloh received the Urban Luxe award at the British Fashion Awards.
What does Virgil Abloh's appointment at Louis Vuitton mean for the fashion industry?
With many brands struggling to engage a millennial generation, the appointment of Abloh at Louis Vuitton marks a savvy move by the luxury house. His predecessor, Kim Jones is credited for marrying high fashion and streetwear - highlights from his time include partnering with the cult skate brand Supreme to produce a sell-out collection of clothing and accessories, and teaming up with artists including Jake and Dinos Chapman to create unique pieces which became collectors items before they even hit the shops - so Abloh is expected to build on the foundation laid by him. "Having followed with great interest Virgil's ascent since he worked with me at Fendi in 2006, I am thrilled to see how his innate creativity and disruptive approach have made him so relevant, not just in the world of fashion but in popular culture today," Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO said in a statement about his appointment. "His sensibility towards luxury and savoir-faire will be instrumental in taking Louis Vuitton menswear into the future." In an interview with the New York Times, Abloh said: “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...." adding that he had been putting together an eight-page “brand manual” defining the new ethos of his Vuitton. “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.”
As a Ghanian-American, Abloh's appointment makes him one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house. Hopefully, his appointment will usher in an era where diversity is finally celebrated. "Today you have changed history. The first to ever do it. Young black man in the biggest fashion house in the world. This is a win not only for you, But the culture as a whole. Everyone that has gotten to be part of the process and everything before. We are all proud of you.” wrote the model/actor Luka Sabbat on Twitter.