If you’ve been following the recent climate of the fashion world, you’d have heard of a young designer whose been shaping the landscape of fashion, implementing a new modernity to branding that speaks to the current taste of youth culture. Virgil Abloh is a highly acclaimed designer and entrepreneur, reforming the fashion industry since he arrived on the scene. Known for his iconic “quotation” marks from his brand, Off-White, and his unique creative approach, Virgil has become the new voice of youth fashion, culture, and creativity.
On March 25th, 2018, Abloh was named the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton. Various fashion moguls, celebrities, and influencers, voiced their happiness, calling this the start of a new era in the Louis Vuitton fashion house. Virgil Abloh became the first black designer to hold this position at the European luxury brand. Many congratulated him on him being the first designer of colour to hold such a high position of power in fashion - stating it was a direct reflection of “black excellence”. However, it has to be asked, why now is Virgil Abloh solidified within the fashion world?
Who is Virgil?
Born in middle- class Rockford, Illinois, to Ghanaian immigrant parents, Virgil Abloh later received his undergraduate in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, in 2002, then furthering his education with a master in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He stated “I wanted to build skyscrapers because I ﬁgured if you could build the tallest building, you could design a spoon, you know?”
He first got his foot in the door in 2003, when he began collaborating with Kanye West on merch. In 2009, Abloh launched PYREX VISION, taking dead-stock Rugby Ralph Lauren shirts and screen- printing “PYREX” onto the shirts, selling them for $500. This became the predicator to his later successful brand Off-White. He later collaborated with Kanye and Jay- Z on the album cover of their joint album Watch the Throne, where he was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
The Off-White Behemoth
In 2012, Virgil Abloh launched the Italian streetwear brand Off- White, collaborating with various brands such as Kith, Moncler, Vans, and the highly acclaimed Nike “The Ten” collection; deconstructing Nike Blazer’s and the Air Jordan 1 with the iconic quotation marks. The brand, catering to men’s and women’s streetwear has become a global conglomerate, with 24 stores across the world. The brand has become an emblem of post-modernism and a shifting in the otherwise heavily gated fashion industry, speaking to the countercultural and rebellious youth culture. Off- White merges high- end fashion with streetwear, offering hoodies as the new luxury in fashion. His aim- to “not just be a conscious decision that I would not just be a consumer; I wanted to trail-blaze and have one of us at the end of a Parisian runway saying, hey, put us on the timeline.
“Louis Vuitton’s First African-American Designer”
When Virgil was appointed the position of creative director of Louis Vuitton, many praised it as a huge step forward for the black representation of creative directors, artists, fashion influencers, and trendsetters. Finally, for once, a black man was certified by a European fashion house, placing a stamp of approval on the advancement of black artists across America and the world.
This notion of “black excellence”, though incredibly positive and deserving of praise, should not be the bedrock of Virgil Abloh’s creative career. He should not now be recognized as black excellence due to entering a fashion stratosphere that has long locked out and voided the efforts of designers and models of colour. Rather, Virgil Abloh and his contemporaries, such as Kanye West, Heron Preston, and Don C, have all been pushing the culture of fashion, continuously molding the aesthetic needs of society.
Virgil Abloh has always exemplified black excellence before the fashion industry caught wind of the movement that was being sparked from his grind in Chicago, to his triumph in Milan, and globally. The (also) DJ, has collaborated with IKEA, Takashi Murakami, celebrities, and continues to hold fashion within the palm of his hand. Louis Vuitton is just a continuation of his propelled prominence in this era of artistry and creative design.
Abloh’s dominance within fashion should not only be recognized now, as a result of him being the creative captain of Louis Vuitton, nor should it solely be based on the colour of his skin. Rather, an artists content should do most of the talking; and judging by his past, present, and trajectory, Virgil Abloh will continue to redefine what it means to merge fashion, culture, and consumerism for years and years to come.