In a move that has sent the industry and fashion community in a state of frenzy, Louis Vuitton has named Virgil Abloh, the 37-year-old founder of the elevated luxe-streetwear brand Off-White, as its new artistic director of menswear. Abloh will present his first collection for the storied French house in June during men’s fashion feek in Paris. He succeeds Kim Jones, who held the position for seven years and now oversees menswear at fellow LVMH-owned brand Christian Dior. Nicolas Ghesquiere will stay on as artistic director of women’s collections. Although Abloh’s name has been floating around in fashion circles as a likely candidate for the top spot that’s been vacant since January, news of the announcement sent shockwaves throughout social media late Sunday night, with many users expressing their excitement at the prospects of what Abloh could bring to such a venerable European institution.
In a statement, Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, says that “having followed with great interest Virgil’s ascent since he worked with me at Fendi in 2006, I am thrilled to see how his innate creativity and disruptive approach have made him so relevant, not just in the world of fashion but in popular culture today.” Indeed, Abloh’s rise can be attributed to not only his revered Off-White label, which bridges the worlds of streetwear and high fashion, but also to his rabid fan base of loyal, passionate followers that engage with him and his brand across all platforms (he boasts 1.6 million followers on instagram alone). His recent women’s fall 2018 show, for example, caused the biggest stir at Paris Fashion Week, where a mob of fans crowded outside the venue made it almost impossible for show-goers to attend. That kind of manic hype was surely a factor in the hiring of Abloh, someone who is attuned to youth and street culture in a way that legacy brands are desperately clamoring to be a part of. His street-luxe hybrid sensibility is a big draw for Louis Vuitton, and comes at a time when this particular segment of the market continues to generate huge buzz for luxury brands and retailers alike. The lucrative LV x Supreme collaboration, for example, proved to be an extremely successful venture that signaled the importance of attracting a new generation of streetwear enthusiasts. And speaking of collaborations, Abloh has garnered a reputation of being a serial collaborator, creating buzz-worthy, limited-edition one-offs with a wide array of brands including Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker and Nike.