It’s a new era for Louis Vuitton. On Monday morning, Virgil Abloh, founder of luxe streetwear label Off-White, was named the new men’s artistic director of the fashion house. Abloh is the first African-American menswear designer for Louis Vuitton, and he’s replacing Kim Jones, who’s now the new menswear designer at Dior.
Abloh will move to Paris for the position but will continue being Off-White’s creative director. The 37-year-old will present his first collection at Paris men’s fashion week in June. Abloh was one of the rumored names to success Jones, but social media was still on fire Sunday night with excitement.
“I feel elated,” Abloh told the New York Times. “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 has also been a longtime creative director for Kanye West, meeting the rapper when they interned for Fendi in 2006. The designer (and sometimes DJ) had no formal fashion training, but rather degrees in architecture and engineering. Construction symbols like caution tape and white crosswalks have been recurring themes for Abloh. He founded Off-White in 2013 and in 2015 was a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize.
Abloh has a loyal and rabid following, with over 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Proof of that following was at his women’s fall 2018 show at Paris Fashion Week where a crowd of fans outside were blocking show attendees from attending. Fashion critic Robin Givhan expounded on Abloh’s cult appeal in her Fall 2018 review of his show.
Does Abloh make existing products better? Or does he simply make them cooler and therefore more desirable by connecting himself to them? It doesn’t even matter. Because what is true is that design houses, particularly big ones, swoon at the thought of stirring the kind of passion among their legions of customers that Abloh sparks in his.