Louis Vuitton Goes Off-White With Virgil Abloh

  • Louis Vuitton Names Virgil Abloh as its New Menswear Designer
  • LVMH 2017 global sales of luxury personal goods up by 5% to €263 billion

The Pied Piper of fashion Virgil Abloh takes the menswear reins at global fashion house Louis Vuitton (LVMH +0.84%). Abloh’s appointment makes him the first black artistic director at Louis Vuitton. He is now one of the rare black designers with a leading role at the top of the fashion pyramid. Will having Abloh at the helm of the brand help craft larger conversations about representation and diversify the business of fashion from within?

Why This Matters: The fashion industry has a complicated relationship with race, even though fashion is regularly influenced by street style, minority communities and creative outsiders. These groups are rarely acknowledged or invited into the fold. According to a recent study by Bain & Company, Abloh’s appointment is a reflection of the increasing consumer-driven intermingling of the luxury and street wear sectors.

Abloh told the New York Times “Product is only one part of the luxury narrative. I want to use Louis Vuitton’s history with travel to really look at different cultures around the world to help make all our humanity visible.” He is bringing a wealth of knowledge with him having worked with brands like Nike, Jimmy Choo, Moncler and even has an upcoming project with Ikea. Perhaps this also places a heightened burden of expectation on Abloh’s shoulders, especially given all the hype around his name.

The Louis Vuitton brand is the biggest revenue driver at the French luxury goods group LVMH. In 2017 the company saw global sales of luxury personal goods increase 5% to €263 billion (about $325 billion). Menswear is currently sold in only 150 of the 450 Louis Vuitton stores around the world, though the company plans to increase that by between 25 and 28 stores this year.

Situational Awareness: This appointment may finally be an acknowledgment on the part of the luxury fashion industry to respond to contemporary culture in new ways. Abloh joins black fashion designer elites including, Olivier Rousteing who is the creative director of Balmain, and Ozwald Boateng, who was the designer for Givenchy menswear from 2003 to 2007. The first collection for Louis Vuitton from Abloh will show during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.

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