A first-generation Ghanaian-American Virgil Abloh has been named as the next artistic director of one of the oldest and most powerful European houses in the luxury business- Louis Vuitton menswear.
Abloh, the founder of the haute street wear label Off-White and a longtime creative director for Kanye West, becomes Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house.
According to a report by New York Times, “I feel elated,” Mr. Abloh said 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.”
Abloh, 37, a first-generation Ghanaian-American raised in Illinois, is widely considered one of fashion’s consummate purveyors of cool; a master of using irony, reference and the self-aware wink (plus celebrity, music, digital and hype), to recontextualize the familiar and give it an aura of cultural currency.
Despite having no formal fashion education (his mother was a seamstress and taught him her trade; he studied architecture and civil engineering), Mr. Abloh founded Off-White — a reference to his belief that old barriers are breaking down — in 2013, almost a decade after he first meet Mr. West and became his creative partner. In 2015, Off-White was a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize. (Mr. Abloh will be the first LVMH finalist to take on a major design role in an LVMH brand.)
Off-White currently has 3.1 million Instagram followers (Mr. Abloh alone has 1.6 million), and Mr. Abloh received the Urban Luxe award at the British Fashion Awards last year. During the just-past women’s wear season, there was almost a riot in the Rue Cambon outside the Off-White show as fans crowded to get in.
A champion of the cross-branded collaboration, Mr. Abloh has worked with names as varied as Nike, Jimmy Choo, Moncler and, with an upcoming project, Ikea. Most recently, he teamed up with Takashi Murakami, a frequent Vuitton collaborator, for a show at the Gagosian Gallery in London.
“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.”
It also presumably made a compelling case that Mr. Abloh could be the man to make Louis Vuitton men’s wear more relevant — and more visible — to the millennial generation. He will build on the foundation laid by Mr. Jones, who also gave classic men’s wear and Vuitton’s history as a luggage expert an urban edge, and recently engineered a sellout collaboration with Supreme, another street-wear success story.