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Virgil Ablob
 
 Virgil Ablob, Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton
Virgil Ablob, the founder and creative director of Off- White becomes men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton
Virgil Ablob, the founder and creative director of Off- White becomes men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton
 
     
 
Virgil Abloh has been announced as the men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton. Born in Illinois in 1980, Abloh rose to stardom in recent years with his label Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh™, a zeitgeist-y brand which married low-fi streetwear with high-end luxury appeal.
 
Rumours had been circulating about Abloh moving to Vuitton in the past few months, after it was announced Kim Jones, the then British Men’s Artistic director of Louis Vuitton, was leaving the brand (Jones has since moved to Dior) back in January.
 
The appointment of Abloh is a bold move on the part of French Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. The good money was on Nicolas Ghesquiere - the current designer of LV womenswear - taking on both roles.
 
What Abloh will bring to the brand remains to be seen, but it is certainly a strong statement of intent on the part of his employers, particularly given Abloh’s heavily streetwear-focused style and his relative nascence to the industry - he founded his brand in 2012.
 
Abloh, who was awarded International Designer of the Year at the GQ Men of the Year awards in 2017, will show his first collection for the brand in Paris in June.
 
"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. His sensibility towards luxury and savoir-faire will be instrumental in taking Louis Vuitton’s menswear into the future" said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman & CEO.
 
"It is an honor for me to accept the position of Men’s Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton. I find the heritage and creative integrity of the House are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times," said Abloh.
 
Read more at:  Virgil Ablob, Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton
 
Virgil Abloh: ‘I now have a platform to change the industry... So I should’
Virgil Abloh: ‘I now have a platform to change the industry... So I should’
Self-made African-American designer with a streetwear aesthetic, a low-key vibe
 
As fashion houses go, few have the history - and balance sheet - of Louis Vuitton. Which is why the appointment of the streetwear supremo, Virgil Abloh, as its new menswear artistic director signalled a new era not just for the brand, but the industry. On the eve of his debut at June’s menswear shows, we met LVMH’s first African-American figurehead for an exclusive look at his inaugural collection
 
it’s as calm as silk in a summer breeze.
The mood in Virgil Abloh’s new studio in Louis Vuitton’s Paris headquarters tells you everything you need to know about the label’s new artistic director of menswear. Most ateliers, a week before a show, transform into high-stress, high-energy nerve centres where tantrums are commonplace and emotions run high. When I visit Abloh just days before his first outing for the brand, however, it’s as calm as silk in a summer breeze. The alt-jazz strains of the new Sons Of Kemet album are drifting out of the enormous black Pioneer speakers Abloh has recently installed in the space; there are fashionable young people in caps and trainers moving languidly around the rails, discussing fabric samples in hushed tones; and there are several men hunched over the decks in Abloh’s office, discussing music for the show. The only thing that resembles an established fashion environment is the very civilised staff lunch of rare roast beef, perfectly sliced pomodorini and roasted balsamic onions (no carbs to see here) being laid out by a compact man in a perfectly cut suit. But then, Abloh is nothing if not anti-establishment.
 
The first thing I notice about Abloh when he arrives at the studio is his size. He’s broad, heavy and tall, at least 6’2”.
 
My door is always open
When I ask him how he maintains the sense of calm in the room, he says, “My door is always open. There’s no hierarchy. I don’t shut the door and get people to ask permission to come in. You know, we’re a team. I just happen to have done a series of things that allow me to be at the head of it, so I take responsibility.”
 
It goes without saying that Abloh is intelligent. Unusually intelligent
It goes without saying that Abloh is intelligent. Unusually intelligent. It radiates from him like waves from a streetwear-clad phone mast. Although I know from my research that he’s smart (before we met, I watched Abloh’s one-hour lecture on creativity, which he gave at Harvard University in October last year), he also has the look of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing: part furtive, part curious, part ever-so-slightly superior. Once we’ve talked about the studio, he’s straight on to the new collection and I’m yet to ask him a question.
 
there isn’t a moment when his brain is not working
The other thing I’m quick to learn about Abloh is that there isn’t a moment when his brain is not working. It’s a trait that means he has a tendency to answer questions before he’s been asked them and one that makes him an unpredictable interviewee. What’s more, he can’t stop moving. There’s a box of board markers in various colours on the table at which we sit to talk and within the first minute of our discussion he’s pulled each one out a little bit before pushing them back in again. Once we get going, we spend much of the interview standing or walking around the showroom, touching various garments and pinballing through topics at bullet-train pace, from the refraction of light and how it’s analogous to Louis Vuitton (more on that later) to the fact that much of Abloh’s new collection has been influenced by The Wizard Of Oz (more on that later too).
 
Abloh’s upbringing was not an extraordinary one. Born to Ghanaian immigrants
Raised in a middle-class household, Abloh’s upbringing was not an extraordinary one. Born to Ghanaian immigrants – his mother a seamstress, his father a manager in a paint factory – Abloh’s parents encouraged his creativity from a young age: his mother in particular, who taught him the tricks of her trade. In 2003, Abloh graduated from the University Of Wisconsin-Madison with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, before going on to complete a master’s in architecture at the Illinois Institute Of Technology. It was also around this time that Abloh met his longtime friend and collaborator Kanye West. If the rumours are true, Abloh skipped part of his graduation to attend a meeting with West’s manager at the time, John Monopoly, and soon after began working for West.
 
Read more at:  Virgil Abloh: ‘I now have a platform to change the industry... So I should’
 
Abloh interned alongside “Yeezy” at LVMH Roman fashion house Fendi
Virgil and Kanye’s Rise to Fashion Supremacy Virgil and Kanye’s Rise to Fashion Supremacy
Virgil Abloh Kanye West
 
It was in 2009 that Abloh’s path into fashion was first cleared. In that year – the same year that West produced a collaborative sneaker line with Louis Vuitton and President Obama was inaugurated into the White House – Abloh interned alongside “Yeezy” at the LVMH-owned Roman fashion house Fendi and it was there that Abloh caught the attention of Michael Burke, the former CEO of the brand and now the chief executive of Louis Vuitton. “I was really impressed with how [Abloh and West] brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way,” Burke told the New York Times. “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.
 
Of his Spring/Summer 2015 collection for Off-White, Vogue Runway said, “Surely Abloh’s is a very active mind, with the potential to have influence greater than some of the very large old fashion houses he now resides with in Milan.”
 
Read more at:  Virgil Abloh: ‘I now have a platform to change the industry... So I should’
 
Virgil Abloh is changing the fashion game
Virgil Abloh is changing the fashion game
The designer’s first collection for Louis Vuitton made a powerful statement in Paris
 
Virgil Abloh, the zeitgeist-surfing designer behind cult fashion label Off-White, showed his first collection for Louis Vuitton today in the garden of Paris’ Palais-Royal.
 
There were several extraordinary things about the designer’s inaugural outing. First and foremost, the fact that Abloh is the first African American to helm an LVMH house made the show groundbreaking before it even started. Second, there were some 2,000 guests (many of them students) standing at the show (and around the same number seated), suggesting that Abloh’s is a Vuitton for the many, not the few. And third, the first 20 or so models to walk the runway were black. “I think that these platforms are super big,” Abloh told me before the show. “They resonate in the outside world in a super way. I’m not just playing into that; I’m just using the models as people, not just bodies to make my clothes look good,” he continued. “Not only are they dark-skinned, they’re all artists and friends.”
 
Read more at:  Virgil Abloh is changing the fashion game’
 
the first 20 or so models to walk the runway were black
The first 20 or so models to walk the runway were black The first 20 or so models to walk the runway were black The first 20 or so models to walk the runway were black
To say that Abloh’s collection is conceptual would be an understatement
 
Aforementioned shake-ups aside, the clothes themselves also presented a new direction for the brand, which had been under the stewardship of British designer Kim Jones until a few months ago. To say that Abloh’s collection is conceptual would be an understatement. Perhaps most notable was the new form of "mid-garment", which furnished the backs of many of the models. Effectively luggage that you wear, there were cobalt leather harnesses finished with multiple pockets (pieces somewhere between cross-body bags, jackets and the shoulder holsters you tend to see in Eighties American cop movies), which also came in caramel and taupe. “[This is] a new class of garment that I’ve made and it’s called a mid-layer garment. It’s like, internally we call it ‘acessamorphosis’,” Abloh explained. "It came from the styling team, it’s in our manifesto, it’s the point at which an accessory becomes a garment.”
 
“This is not just a fashion collection, it’s the founding of a new idea," said Abloh. "You won’t get that until three years later: 'Oh, this is the idea, it reverts back to the 2019 spring/summer show...' But the idea is that once you’ve figured out the essential questions, why the brand makes clothes, then it’s not just fashion for fashion’s sake.”
 
Read more at: Virgil Abloh is changing the fashion game
 
Virgil Abloh the first African-American man to sit at the helm LVMH brand
Virgil Abloh the first African-American man to sit at the helm LVMH brand
I now have a platform to change the industry... So I should
 
In Off-White’s first five years, Abloh produced a series of collaborations with the likes of Jimmy Choo, Nike, Chrome Hearts and, most recently, Ikea (out next year). His clothes have been worn by everyone from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian to Naomi Campbell and Drake. In 2015 he was nominated for the LVMH Prize (the only American designer nominated that year) and in 2017 he received the Urban Luxe Award at the British Fashion Awards. Proof, then, that Abloh’s new appointment shouldn’t really come as a surprise
 
The person it surprised least, perhaps, was Abloh himself. In an interview I read prior to meeting him, he said that his ambition has always been to be the creative director of a major fashion house. When I ask him whether that house was Louis Vuitton, he is effusive: “There were opportunities that arose at the same sort of time that this came about,” he says, “but [Louis Vuitton] is more zenith than zenith. Not all houses are created equal.”
 
"Louis Vuitton is more zenith than zenith. Not all houses are created equal.”
 
Virgil Abloh is the first African-American man to sit at the helm of an LVMH brand (it’s important to note that Savile Row tailor Ozwald Boateng, also of Ghanaian decent, was employed as creative director of Givenchy in 2003). And not just any brand, but the most profitable brand in the LVMH stable. Louis Vuitton, after all, is estimated to account for 50 per cent of the conglomerate’s total profitability, a figure that equated to £2.5 billion last year. It’s an extraordinary coup.
 
“I applaud [LVMH chairman and CEO] Mr Arnault and the whole Louis Vuitton family for embracing me,” says Abloh sincerely. “They looked at the work and looked at the potential and [realised that] it’s going to engage a whole new set of the outside world and bring them into the conversation. That’s super unique in today’s landscape; it’s indicative of a lot of things.” Abloh continues: “To me, it’s hope. [Hope that] the world will evolve into a more diverse and open-minded place. We are seeing a company with a long history of doing things a certain way trying new things.”
 
Does he feel like a trailblazer? Is he proud? “I’m super proud of it.
Does he feel like a trailblazer? Is he proud? “I’m super proud of it. It gives me a reason. It adds depth to what could be surface. There has to be depth. There has to be a reason why,” Abloh says. “I take pride in the fact that there’s a kid who’s living in, you know, Alabama, who never thought something like this was possible for him, almost to the point that he made life and career decisions to find some other thing he was passionate about. But all of a sudden, because I’m here, he knows [he can do it too]. That’s why the Harvard lecture exists. I’m not doing that for myself. I’m doing it to be a beacon of hope for someone. This is the legacy of any artist or creative: you want to make sure that your work makes an impact.”
 
Abloh’s consistently collected demeanour is fascinating.
Abloh’s consistently collected demeanour is fascinating. Nothing seems to faze him and what could come across as arrogance in fact reads as a determined belief both in himself and his ideas. When I ask whether he ever feels insecure, he refers to something he calls “the halo”: the aura of cool he manufactures by way of his polymathic activities. “It’s the flights, it’s the DJing, it’s every 100-person club I’ve played in Cologne while no one is caring and those 100 people being like, ‘That guy can do clothes, he can do shoes, he can design, but he can also DJ really well and I had the best night of my life,’” he says with a smile. “All that, and you encapsulate it with a designer who doesn’t look like many designers in town... At this point, all things considered, what’s there to be insecure about? Life is the hard part. Fashion isn’t.”
 
Does Virgil Abloh feel like a trailblazer? Is he proud? “I’m super proud of it
The Off-White founder introduced his vision for Louis Vuitton with a rainbow-infused catwalk show outside Paris' Palais-Royal, 21 June 2018
Abloh is breaking barriers, starting conversations
 
The Off-White founder introduced his vision for Louis Vuitton with a rainbow-infused catwalk show outside Paris' Palais-Royal
 
One week after meeting Abloh in Paris, I’m back in the City Of Lights for his inaugural Louis Vuitton show. Between Abloh’s outing on the Thursday and Kim Jones’ first turn for Dior on the Saturday, it’s a big weekend for men’s fashion and there’s a buzz in the air.
 
Dominating the entire garden of the Palais-Royal, Abloh’s runway is a blurred rainbow of orange, yellow, acid green and white. It’s long – long enough for people to worry about the models walking the length of it in the summer heat – and there are thousands of students from various Paris universities standing behind the front row, whom Abloh has invited to attend.
Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna
The mood is optimistic, energetic and exciting. Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna are in the audience and the soundtrack has been curated by Louis Vuitton’s new music director, Benji B. One of the tracks blasting down the runway is by – you guessed it – Kanye West, who is also in attendance.
 
Kanye West, is also in attendance
 
The first thing to note about the show is that the first 17 models to walk the runway are black. In an age when many labels still struggle to cast more than one or two models of colour in a 40-look show, it’s a strong statement, particularly as it’s being made by one of the most influential fashion brands in the world.
 
“The models are artists first, in my mind; they’re not black.”
The second thing to note is that many of the models are “real people”. There’s musician A$AP Nast, artist Blondey McCoy, rapper Kid Cudi and skater Lucien Clarke among others.
 
With this show, Abloh is presenting his manifesto
With this show, Abloh is presenting his manifesto; he’s normalising diversity to such an extent that, from this point onwards, it will be both embarrassing and detrimental for other brands not to follow suit. “These platforms are super big. They resonate in the outside world in a super way,” says Abloh. “I’m not just playing into that. I’m using the models as people, not just bodies to make my clothes look good. Not only are they dark-skinned, [but] they’re all artists and friends.” He continues: “I now have a platform to change the industry with this show. So I should do that. It’s no secret: we’re designers, so we can start a trend, we can highlight issues, we can make a lot of people focus on something or we can cause a lot of people to focus on ourselves. I’m not interested in [the latter]. I’m interested in using my platform as one of a very small group of African-American males to design a house, to sort of show people in a poetic way. The [models are] artists first, in my mind; they’re not black.”
 
 Work is relaxing to me. I’m happy making things."
Abloh moved to Paris from Chicago just three weeks before our meeting – a month before the show – and he’s currently living in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés with his wife, Shannon, and their children, Lowe and Grey. When I ask how he balances family life with 350,000 miles of work-related air travel per year, he’s characteristically sanguine. “I always live in multiple places. I’m never in the same city for seven days,” he says. “There’s a lot of stuff you have to do at this level. Like, I have to be in Asia for something I can’t not be at, and then there’s the Met [Gala] and the CFDAs [the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America Awards] and all that.” And relaxing? How does he do that? “Work is relaxing to me. I’m happy making things. So relaxing is the opposite of making something, probably not the healthiest, but...” Abloh smiles.
 
“So the context of the collection is based on a prism”
“So the context of the collection is based on a prism”
That’s where the iridescence in pieces like the see-through bag comes from
 
Does Abloh feel that, through his appointment at Louis Vuitton, he’s reached his own personal Oz? “You know, that movie is about displacement and this is figurative of this whole new world [I’m in],” he says thoughtfully. “So the context of the collection is based on a prism. That’s where the iridescence in pieces like the see-through bag comes from – light coming in and then [refracting] into the whole spectrum of Louis Vuitton. You are seeing the full exuberance after the single light. Then you end up in The Wizard Of Oz.” He continues: “With that, the explosion of colour and the tie-dye in the show, it all makes sense. That’s why I said before [that] I’ve thought this through, you know. It’s for both the tourist and the purist. It’s like, the kid who’s in the street, who loves Supreme – he doesn’t need to read that deep, but that depth is there.”
 “So, I gotta jet...”
And with that – and a quiet “So, I gotta jet...”, a phrase I’ve heard Abloh use before – the busiest, soon-to-be most in-demand man in fashion is off to plan the aforementioned music for his show, and, I hope, to enjoy a spot of that delicious staff lunch... Though whether there’s time for food in Virgil Abloh’s schedule I’m not entirely convinced.
 
Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton Men's Fall Winter Show 2019
Louis Vuitton Men's Fall Winter Show 2019 Louis Vuitton Men's Fall Winter Show 2019 Louis Vuitton Men's Fall Winter Show 2019
 
 Virgil Abloh is changing the face of Parisian fashion
Virgil Abloh is changing the face of Parisian fashion
The Chicago-born designer has just presented his second collection for Louis Vuitton
 
When we arrived at the LV show venue in Paris’s Tuileries garden – a giant rusted box transformed, inside, into a theatrical reimagining of the Manhattan street in the “Billie Jean” video (Ludlow, to be precise) – and when we heard the show soundtrack: an alt jazz medley created and played live by Dev Hynes (featuring strains from some of Jacko’s classic tracks), we were pretty sure.
 
It was when we read the notes from the show – when the final look had swept its way off the runway – that we were convinced: this collection was to be all about the king of pop (by way of the king of hype), and we were intrigued.
 
Said show notes, given out as guests sat down, read less as a manifesto for Abloh’s new Vuitton – and with it a vision for your Autumn/Winter ‘19 wardrobe – more a celebration of Michael Jackson’s life and work; the impact he had on global culture and, perhaps most importantly, the influence he once wielded, and continues to wield posthumously, over the way we all dress(ed).
 
In a similar way that Abloh took inspiration from The Wizard Of Oz for his first collection – utilising the yellow brick road as a metaphor for his own ascent from middle class Illinois architecture graduate to global fashion being – Abloh has appropriated the allegory of Michael Jackson’s cultural influence for AW19.
 
What Abloh has achieved in his short time at Vuitton, after all, is in some ways synonymous with what Jackson accomplished in own life. There are very few shows, if any, on the Paris schedule, which would feature as diverse a front row as that of Naomi Campbell, Skepta, Frank Ocean, Mos Def and Timothée Chalamet. What’s more, there are very few Parisian designers who would bring on Hynes to produce the aforementioned soundtrack. And let’s face it, there are very few Parisian outings that would open doors to guests eager to provide the scent of smoking cigars etc, to proceedings. In short? Abloh is redefining the face of Parisian fashion and his single mindedness is impressive.
 
Read more at:  Virgil Abloh is changing the face of Parisian fashion
 
Virgil Abloh's First Louis Vuitton Campaign Stars A 3-Year-Old
Virgil Abloh's First Louis Vuitton Campaign Stars A 3-Year-Old Virgil Abloh's First Louis Vuitton Campaign Stars A 3-Year-Old Virgil Abloh's First Louis Vuitton Campaign Stars A 3-Year-Old
Virgil Abloh launches first Louis Vuitton menswear campaign starring three-year-old toddler
 
Virgil Abloh is blazing his own Yellow Brick Road
Virgil Abloh is blazing his own Yellow Brick Road
Virgil Abloh: ‘I Am Not a Designer'
 
The Off-White founder and Wizard of Oz fan isn’t just making clothes. He’s blazing his own Yellow Brick Road from nowheresville to the Emerald City of Paris and reprogramming Louis Vuitton in the process.
 
Read more at: Virgil Abloh: ‘I Am Not a Designer'
 
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