Virgil Abloh, founder of the streetwear brand Off-White, will soon take on a new role as the latest artistic director of men's wear at Louis Vuitton.
The New York Times reported the news on Monday. The appointment places Abloh in rare company; he joins Balmain's Olivier Rousteing and former Givenchy designer Ozwald Boateng as one of the only black designers at the top fashion houses.
"I feel elated," Abloh, longtime creative director for Kanye West, told the Times. "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." Abloh celebrated the announcement by posting a picture of a Louis Vuitton monogram trunk on Instagram.
Abloh will be replacing Kim Jones, who left Louis Vuttion in January and is now at Dior Homme. When asked during an interview with Hypebeast to describe how he would label himself, the designer said: "More than anything, I feel like I'm a descendant of everyone from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams to Basquiat or Warhol," and he will continue to operate Off-White.
“I feel elated. 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's appointment as menswear designer at Louis Vuitton is being hailed as both a testament to Virgil’s success as a designer thus far and to the influence of streetwear as a whole. According to luxury resale start-up The RealReal, their site experienced a 64 percent increase in LV searches following news of Virgil’s new position. The site claims searches for Off-White have also jumped by 55 percent. Furthermore, the RealReal reports sales for LV x Supreme items went up by 57 percent on the day Jones’ departure from LV was announced. The data is just another testament to streetwear's powerful influence on high-fashion
Louis Vuitton chief executive Michael Burke spoke with the Times about why he decided to hire Virgil for the job. Burke first met Virgilmore than a decade ago when he interned for Burke at Fendi with Kanye. Burke said he was impressed with what Abloh and Kanye brought to the table back then, and he’s continued to keep an eye on Virgil's contributions to the fashion world.
“I paid them $500 a month! 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.”
Virgil has collaborated closely with a number of big brands over the last few years, including Nike, Jimmy Choo, and Ikea. He told the Times he’s looking at his new job with Louis Vuitton as “the ultimate collaboration.” Additionally, he hinted at what he plans to do in his new role.
“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. 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.”
Virgil told the Times he plans on relocating his family to Paris in the near future to start his work at Louis Vuitton. But don’t worry, Off-White loyalists. While Virgil will, no doubt, be a busy man in the coming months, he said he’s going to continue to play an active role in Off-White. He will also continue working with Kanye for the foreseeable future.
Virgil is expected to show his first Louis Vuitton collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.