When Abloh was interning with Kanye at Fendi, being head of house at one of the world’s most treasured fashion labels was a distant dream. Now, the artistic mastermind is marrying streetwear with high end couture, interweaving tales of African American culture and innovation into his work. Virgil’s appointment means a lot more to the world than many may think. Never have LV appointed a black man as their creative Director; a position that is oversaturated by white designers, but only because there hasn’t been a figurehead to open the doors to a heavily marginalised community.
Recently, Joe Casely-Hayford died. The black British designer was one of the first to reach international acclaim; everyone from Michael Jackson to Drake wore his clothes. With such a tragedy, it is important designers in the calibre of Virgil Abloh step up, and his two Louis Vuitton runway shows have certainly done this. References to the Wizard of Oz and Michael Jackson have uniquely brought theatre to fashion, displaying his rags to riches story in front of a crowd of Billionaires.
Racism has Been prevalent in the fashion industry for sometime; Jean Paul Gaultier told a story to ID magazine about how he wanted to use black models, but he was met with discretion from others in the industry because they would be less appealing to ‘American Buyers’.
The metaphorical imagery of the yellow brick road and Billie Jean on Abloh’s Parisian runways displayed his story in an emotional and very engaging way; having the future of Hip Hop and fashion walk down such a stage inherently parades his influence on modern culture too. NYC’s A$AP Nast, London’s Lucien Clark, French born Octavian and Atlanta’s Playboi Carti have all marched down that catwalk, representing the talent and creativity associated with the Streetwear scene, which is binded by figureheads like Abloh.
It is no lie that high end brands are finding it difficult to adapt to 21st century fashion. Louis Vuitton are one of the only labels taking Streetwear seriously and incorporating the culture into their collections. Kim Jones’ time at LV was optimised by the Supreme collaboration, which Abloh’s line has already outsold. The London designer is well known for his exploration of youth culture, and Virgil is arguably using the same platform to portray his roots and shine positivity on the under appreciated groups he rose from.
When announcing his headship at LV, the 38 year old pronounced ‘I find the heritage and creative integrity of the House are key inspirations’ but really his appointment has instigated the renowned integrity for the label. He has reimagined the Parisian house, modernising them with scintillating tailoring and flashes of neon colours that transport you thrillingly into the future. The neon pink and green luggage bags were a highlight of his FW19 collection, and they’re completely unconventional in comparison to the bleak brown accessories the label has been churning out year upon year.
Working with such a variety of labels has integrated the scene in a way that has made fashion far more accessible than it used to be. Youth tribes have always been into style, but fashion was a distant fantasy for many, who couldn’t afford such luxuries. ‘Flat-White’, Virgil’s DJ name, has collaborated with everyone from Levi’s to Moncler, empowering both labels as much as each other despite their demographic associations. Whether you rate him or not, Virgil Abloh is one of the only creatives who could pull this off - and hopefully people like himself and Heron Preston will inspire a whole new generation of African American designers.