Why fashion needs Virgil Abloh right now

01.03.2019 | By ELODIE RUSSO

As Virgil Abloh showed his latest collection for Off-White at Paris Fashion Week on thursday, we look back on his worth at Louis Vuitton and his impact on contemporary fashion.


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Inspired by pop icon Michael Jackson, Virgil’s second collection for Louis Vuitton had a darker, maybe more serious tone than his debut collection for the French fashion house and yet, it remained undeniably very “Virgil” as it has come to be known on the circuit. Mixing loose tailored suits in monochromatic shades of grey, camel, red and purple with streetwear-inspired pieces such as blown-out monogrammed puffer jackets, the collection was everything we have come to expect from the creative genius. But perhaps the more striking statement was the finale, during which models walked down the runway draped in various flags – an ode to Abloh’s vision of “diversity, inclusivity, and unity” for Louis Vuitton.


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This idea of diversity and democratization is nothing new for Abloh. Born to Ghanaian immigrants, nothing could have predestined this architecture graduate for a career in fashion and yet, here he is today, leading one of the world’s oldest and most powerful fashion house.

His first foray into high fashion was a short-lived streetwear brand called Pyrex Vision, which focused on a small collection of vintage Champion tees and flannel shirt plastered in Renaissance artwork. After facing much criticism from his peers, Abloh called Pyrex Vision “more like an art project” than anything else. And yet, the 500$ screen-printed repurposed shirts all sold out in a matter of minutes which didn’t fail to catch Abloh’s attention.


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It wasn’t until a year later than the designer would take the fashion world by a storm with his new venture, Off-White. What Abloh created with Off-White was very different from his Pyrex collection and finally got him the recognition he so rightly deserved, as well as a nomination for the prestigious LVMH prize and collaborations with some of the world’s biggest brands such as Nike, Levi’s and even Swedish homeware giant, Ikea. The streetwear label was quick to be sported by celebrities such as good friend Kanye West, rapper A$AP Rocky and even models, such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. They might have helped bringing high fashion to the streets, but Abloh was the one to bring the streets to the catwalk in the first place, something which, at the time, was revolutionary and unheard of.


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And yet, the fashion world was not too kind when they heard the news of Abloh’s appointment at Louis Vuitton. Many accused him of only getting the job because of his connection to Kanye West or his huge social media following (Abloh’s Instagram account boasts an impressive 3.6 million followers), negating everything he had previously done to modernise and democratize the fashion industry. Once again, Abloh took on this criticism and came back stronger with a distinct vision for the brand, one of inclusivity.


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As Louis Vuitton’s first African-American creative director, Virgil Abloh is the only black designer to have ever been appointed at the head of a heritage brand so it comes to no surprise that his vision for the brand is to normalise diversity and give everyone a voice, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or social class, both on the runway and on the front row.

He once told GQ Magazine:

“I take pride in the fact that there’s a kid who’s living in, you know, Alabama, who never thought something like this was possible for him, almost to the point that he made life and career decisions to find some other thing he was passionate about. But all of a sudden, because I’m here, he knows he can do it too.”


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Maybe this is why the world needs someone like Virgil Abloh more than ever before, to give everyone hope and a chance to be seen or heard. The democratization of the fashion world will be a tedious and lengthy process but with someone like Abloh leading the way, we are all here for it