“Pure unadulterated desire,” is what Louis Vuitton’s chief executive officer Michael Burke attributed to the crazy success of Virgil Abloh’s first designs for the fashion house. While Abloh’s creations haven’t hit LV boutiques yet, WWD reported that a Tokyo pop-up last week earned over 30% more in the first 48 hours than Vuitton x Supreme in 2018. The Fashion Law reports that products purchased from the Harajuku pop-up are already showing up on streetwear consignment sites like StockX at a huge markup; a pochette retailing for $495, for instance, was marked up to $1,200.
Burke also noted that there is “strong demand for tailored ready-to-wear, mini trunks in white leather, and transparent and iridescent weekend bags.” Abloh’s Spring 2019 collection was inspired in part by the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz, with designs featuring poppy fields and Land of Oz prints. To celebrate the launch, the Abloh installed a 12-story psychedelic—and holographic—figure that sits above Louis Vuitton’s Fifth Avenue location.
Abloh taking Louis Vuitton down the Yellow Brick Road is the next chapter for the fashion house that, last year, did an unprecedented collection with Supreme, thanks to Vuitton’s former menswear director Kim Jones. It was deemed a highlight of the year for LVMH and was also a monumental moment for fashion, a true luxury/streetwear hybrid. Abloh is an insanely successful Midas-touch creative, going in just four years from launching Off-White to becoming the first Black designer to head Louis Vuitton’s menswear division. He is, it’s fair to say, untouchable.
It was in a 2016 Business of Fashion interview that Abloh prophesied his run at Vuitton. “The end goal is to modernize fashion and steer a [fashion] house, because I believe in the modernization of these storied brands,” he said. He understands young people, he understands how to employ social media mystique, and he understands cool.
“Only one Paris designer had fans rioting in the streets,” fashion critic Robin Givhan wrote in March about the designer. Fluent in a certain kind of ambient irony, Abloh knows that people will look at a streetwear-ized IKEA collaboration, an Evian water bottle, or most recently, his eponymously named jewelry collection inspired by paper clips.
Yesterday on Instagram, Abloh shared an image of a box of paper clips with the aesthetic of an Office Depot product, except for his name in red letters. Another photo posted showed the designer wear a paper-clip necklace, with a caption reading simply “Jacob.”
“The idea is like high jewelry for all,” he told WWD. “It’s a crash—it’s a paper clip, but it’s also pavé diamonds made in a very specific way.” Mainstream, otherwise forgotten products made in very specific, elevated ways is Abloh’s MO.
Maybe it’s the Uncanny Valley quality of seeing such a recognizable symbol—a water bottle or a paper clip—ever-so-slightly repurposed, or maybe it’s that Abloh intuitively understands what feels good to look at on an Instagram grid. Either way, no one’s looking away.
Learn more about Virgil Abloh’s SS19 collection for Louis Vuitton here.