In Jan 2015, Virgil Abloh was named as one of eight finalists for the LVMH Young Fashion Designer of the Year Prize. The jury consisted of many established names in the fashion world. After careful interviews and critiques of each finalist, Virgil lost out to Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques'Almeida, who were announced LVMH Young Fashion Designers of the Year.
Fast forward three years and Virgil is now the first African American artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear.
In recent years, Virgil has reached somewhat of a god-level status amongst many of the younger hypebeasts and celebrities. The youth love him. With that in mind, LV’s decision is wise from a purely economic standpoint. The purchasing power of today’s youth is proven and the hybrid market of luxury goods and streetwear culture is undeniable. With this hire alone, LV seems to have brought in an age demographic 10 to 15 years younger than their current regulars.
After interning at Fendi with Kanye West in 2006, Virgil came to prominence as Kanye’s creative director. In 2014, he launched his personal streetwear line Off White. Since then Virgil and his brand have popped up everywhere. One of the biggest successes has been his work with Nike on various sneakers, while a litany of New York Times’ profiles and an eagerly anticipated collaboration with Ikea is on the way.
One could argue, however, that his success is measured. He’s almost never as successful on his own. Many of his best projects involve a collaboration with another brand. Is it perhaps that Virgil needs the crutch of working with existing products of established brands or companies? Or is it the companies he works with that stand to profit off of his name or brand? Many Off White collabs sell out in seconds. But on the flip side, some independent Off White pieces sit on display or online for months before ending up on sale.
One cannot deny or ignore the success of what Virgil’s built. But despite his meteoric rise, he’s yet to obtain the respect of many titans in the fashion world. Key players, including Raf Simons - who was on the jury for the 2015 LVMH Young Fashion Designer of the Year Prize - have been quick to point out Virgil’s seemingly lack of individuality. He’s been criticized for copying other designers’ silhouettes and aesthetics.
This is why the news of Virgil’s new gig is so captivating. This new position no doubt provides Virgil with a platform where he can either prove his haters right or wrong.
Virgil is now on the biggest stage in the fashion world. He can’t hide. Paris in June will be an interesting one; for fashion critics, like Raf, awaiting the opportunity to critique silhouettes, designs, and the overall aesthetic of the collection and for the 15-year-olds in middle America, eagerly refreshing Hypebeast.com in order to catch a glimpse of a potential “LV” or “LUXURY GOODS” screen printed t-shirt that they hope to purchase with last month’s allowance. All eyes will be on Virgil and LV for a small preview of what the future holds.