Virgil Abloh To Head Louis Vuitton Menswear Designs
This is big. Off-White designer Virgil Abloh has been appointed artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton… It’s a historical move as Abloh becomes LV’s first African-American artistic director. He’ll become one of very few black designers at the top of a French heritage house. Olivier Rousteing is currently creative director at Balmain, and British designer Ozwald Boateng designed Givenchy’s men’s wear from 2003 to 2007.
“I feel elated,” Mr. Abloh told The New York Times via phone on Sunday, adding that he planned to relocate his family to Paris to take the job at the largest brand in the stable of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury group. “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.”
“Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist of the moment,” said Michael Burke, chief executive of Louis Vuitton. The two men first met about 12 years ago when Mr. Abloh spent six months interning at Fendi with Kanye West, where Mr. Burke was then the chief executive.
“I paid them $500 a month!” Mr. Burke said. “I was really impressed with how they brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way. Virgil could create a metaphor and a new vocabulary to describe something as old-school as Fendi. I have been following his career ever since.”
Abloh, who is 37-years-old, has no formal fashion training. He learned the craft from his mother who was a seamstress. A first-generation Ghanaian-American raised in Illinois Abloh founded Off-White in 2013, nearly ten years after he meeting Kanye West and becoming his creative director. Ironically enough, Off-White was a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize back in 2015 and Abloh will also make history as the first LVMH finalist to be appointed in such a major role at an LVMH brand.
Abloh also plans to continue his work with Off-White while he holds his role at LV, saying “it is for the 17-year-old version of myself, whereas Vuitton is for the 37-year-old I am today.” He’ll also continue to work with Kanye West, but says he’ll cut back on other work, like deejaying.
Abloh recently teamed up with Takashi Murakami for a show at the Gagosian Gallery in London and in recent years, he’s collaborated with brands including Nike, Jimmy Choo, Moncler and currently has an upcoming project with Ikea.
“In a way, all of my output has been to make a compelling case for me to take on a role such as this,” Mr. Abloh said. “I think of it as kind of the ultimate collaboration.”
“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,” Mr. Abloh said, 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.”
Mr. Burke added, “Louis Vuitton was not a couture house. From the mid-19th century to the 1920s and beyond it always sought to cater to the new wealthy class, not the old aristocrats.”
“Product is only one part of the luxury narrative,” Mr. Abloh said in the phone interview. “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. When creativity melds together with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together. Fashion on this level can really open eyes.”
Abloh will show his first collection for Louis Vuitton during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.
Great news right? Who is ready to splurge on some new Louis?