The trajectory of Virgil Abloh’s career is no short of a salvation story for the luxury fashion industry itself. The 37-year-old designer, who established critically acclaimed luxury streetwear brand Off-White just 3 years ago, is now the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton Menswear.
Some of his most iconic contributions to fashion include IKEA’s ‘Frakta’ shopping bag of viral social media fame and of course, his usage of quotation marks with ironic wordplay seen on everything from socks and sneakers to outerwear.
Abloh is one of the first-ever African-American designers to ever helm the creative leadership at a luxury house of this stature. The fact that he is a streetwear designer with no official fashion education, and that he started his career with Kanye West just adds to the significance of this nomination.
His appointment was announced just 3 months ago and naturally the debut show that took place on 21 June at Paris Fashion Week was pre-marked as a turning point in the history of fashion.
His note for the collection handed out to the guests did not lose this narrative: ‘A label determined by values, codes and qualities, its use and definition were the privilege of a few until a new generation conquered its dominion and shifted the paradigm for good.’
Ever since he joined LV, the designer has been talking about beginning a new chapter of luxury with a clean state that is as much about access as it is about functionality.
He even made this concept of ‘accessibility’ seem very real by flying in some 3,000 art and design students from different corners of the world to watch the show in Paris.
At the presentation, Abloh spoke about Louis Vuitton’s relationship with making Ready-To-Wear clothing, as a brand coveted for its luxury luggage business.
The New Vernacular
The designer mentioned that his idea behind redoing the LV persona will have to do a lot with the liaison, the onset of which was visible in the way he used pockets throughout the collection. Going a step further, he spoke of how important incorporating and elevating accessories will be in his work.
Naturally, ‘Accessomorphosis’ is the first term that Abloh is adding to Louis Vuitton’s vernacular. Pencil pouches on sleeves, harness backpacks, multi-pocket fanny packs and a stuffy neon vest with not one but three protruding zippered square sacks, everything revolved around morphing accessories into clothing itself.
Another word he is underwriting for his Louis Vuitton tenure is ‘Margielism’ that was explained in his notes as ‘a term applied to garments or accessories which reflect the normative fashion religion of a reverent generation of young or younger designers to which Virgil Abloh belongs.’
However, Louis Vuitton is no stranger to streetwear and pop culture, and technically Abloh will simply build upon a story that was started by predecessor Kim Jones. Jones is the visionary behind possibly the biggest luxury/streetwear mash-up of all time aka the ‘Supreme x LV’ collaboration. Thus, Virgil already has big shoes to fill.
Perhaps his diverse celebrity following that brought in everyone from Rihanna and Kardashians to Jenners as also Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Rita Ora for his first show will help push this message forward.
Inspired by the idea of a prism and its spectrum of vibrant colours, Abloh blended it in a collection that was sporty without alienating Vuitton’s luxury heritage.
The show began in stream of off-white (obviously) sets of relaxed suits, cargo pants, translucent monogram t-shirts; slowly transitioning towards nude browns and went on to explode into a vibrant ‘Wizard of Oz’ inspired colourways and patterning.
The collection was aimed to please LV’s affluent adult clientele with crocodile leather trench coats, brushed mohair suiting, and leather embossing. That said, it showed a clear appreciation for the teen spirit with a good dosage of hooded anoraks, voluminous trousers and acidic tie-dye t-shirts.
LVMH (Louis Vuitton’s parent company) has already witnessed a good 16 % organic growth in Q1 2018, a trend that is expected to continue with the positive response to Abloh’s contribution.
A strong first collection, an incredibly supportive fan following as well as an acute understanding of the zeitgeist around him, it will be interesting to see how the designer imbibes a new meaning to French luxury. Can we expect something of a Demna Gvasalia at Vetements and Balenciaga kind of fashion revolution?