Virgil Abloh may not be a household name, but as Abloh becomes Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, it’s one that's worth the attention.
Best known for founding his own streetwear brand, Off-White, and being a longtime creative director for Kanye West, Virgil’s rise from being a civil engineering student at the University of Wisconsin, to interning with Kanye West at Fendi, to being at the forefront of the fashion industry has been exemplary. He is a first-generation Ghanaian-American and is notable for having bridged streetwear and the “zeitgeist of the moment” with more classic elements of style.
In conversation with W Magazine’s Diane Solway last year, Abloh is recognized as something of a disruptor. He recalls attending Paris fashion week with West in 2009, saying, “We were a generation that was interested in fashion and weren’t supposed to be there. We saw this as our chance to participate and make current culture.”
Since that time, he has established himself as a “super-influencer” with 3.1 million Instagram followers. Those in his “inner circle,” like him, have influenced a variety of media, whether it be rapper A$AP Rocky, teen model Luka Sabbat who stars on ABC’s "Grown-ish," or stylist Ian Connor. He recognizes that social media is a positive and powerful tool in shaping fashion: “I say to them (social media influencers), ‘Kylie’s outfit is different because you exist.’”
Because of his regard as a creative director, streetwear designer, and an African-American man, his ability to expand Louis Vuitton’s relevance to the millennial audience is highly anticipated.
His focus is on redefining how the brand reaches its consumers, whether via its runway shows or its interactions with global politics. His collaboration with artist Jenny Holzer in 2017 saw the international refugee crisis and contested immigration policies take center stage. He notes that “Fashion itself doesn’t speak with the same volume without context.”
In an industry where he may have felt as though there wasn’t a space for him, Abloh has certainly made an impactful one. On receiving the position with Louis Vuitton, he said, “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’s story is one to be celebrated; he represents the body of creators that look to extend the representation, modernity, and political awareness of the fashion industry. For Abloh, this is merely the beginning.