In a move that sent the industry and fashion community into a state of frenzy, Louis Vuitton has named Virgil Abloh, the 37-year-old founder of the elevated luxe-streetwear brand Off-White, as its new artistic director of menswear. Abloh will present his first collection for the storied French house in June during men’s fashion week in Paris.
He succeeds Kim Jones, who held the position for seven years and now oversees menswear at fellow LVMH-owned brand Christian Dior. Nicolas Ghesquiere will stay on as artistic director of women’s collections.
Although Abloh’s name has been floating around in fashion circles as a likely candidate for the top spot that’s been vacant since January, news of the announcement sent shockwaves throughout social media late Sunday night, with many users expressing their excitement at the prospects of what Abloh could bring to such a venerable European institution.
In a statement, Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, says that “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.” Indeed, Abloh’s rise can be attributed to not only his revered Off-White label, which bridges the worlds of streetwear and high fashion but also to his rabid fan base of loyal, passionate followers that engage with him and his brand across all platforms (he boasts 1.6 million followers on Instagram alone). Abloh, who has been the longtime creative director for Kanye West, drew a mob of fans at his women’s fall 2018 show during Paris Fashion Week.
That kind of manic hype was surely a factor in the hiring of Abloh, someone who is attuned to youth and street culture in a way that legacy brands are desperately clamoring to be a part of. His street-luxe hybrid sensibility is a big draw for Louis Vuitton and comes at a time when this particular segment of the market continues to generate huge buzz for luxury brands and retailers alike. The lucrative LV x Supreme collaboration, for example, proved to be an extremely successful venture that signaled the importance of attracting a new generation of streetwear enthusiasts. And speaking of collaborations, Abloh has garnered a reputation for being a serial collaborator, creating buzz-worthy, limited-edition one-offs with a wide array of brands including Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker and Nike.
Abloh for his part was keen to ensure the codes of the house will lie intact. “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,” he said in a statement. He will continue to work and design at his Off-White label, which is based in Milan. The news puts to rest several rumors that have linked Abloh’s name to creative director jobs at several brands like Versace and Burberry. As the New York Times notes, he will be the first designer who was a finalist at the LVMH Young Designers Prize to actually take on a major design role at an LVMH brand. His other recent achievements include nabbing last year’s “urban luxe” prize for Off-White at the Fashion Awards, and earlier this month he received both a men’s and womenswear “designer of the year” nomination for the 2018 CFDA awards being held in June.
No doubt Louis Vuitton will look to capitalize off of Abloh’s momentum and bring his unique sensibility to a new, fresh era at the brand, which contributes to the overwhelming majority of parent company LVMH’s revenues. While LVMH doesn’t disclose sales figures for individual brands, estimates put Louis Vuitton’s sales last year at almost $12 billion. As for its men’s business, Burke tells the Times that it’s been growing by double digits and that it had a “stellar 2017.”
Louis Vuitton’s aesthetic for men’s has thus far been built around a sleek, urban spirit with international wanderlust and sophistication at its core. Former menswear head Jones was known to infuse his collections with his penchant for travel and exotic destinations. It remains to be seen how Abloh will interpret the brand’s heritage and build upon the foundation Jones has built. Until then, all eyes will be on Abloh in June to see his vision for Louis Vuitton men’s come to life.