Photography Mitchell Sams

in a radical move, louis vuitton names virgil abloh as its new men’s artistic director

Steve Salter

Forget Trump, this is the new American dream. The OFF-WHITE founder and longtime Kanye West creative director succeeds Kim Jones and becomes Louis Vuitton’s first African American artistic director.

Photography Mitchell Sams

A new week, a new creative director announcement. And what an announcement. While the news of Riccardo Tisci to Burberry, Hedi Slimane to Céline and Kim Jones to Dior took the industry by surprise, this morning’s announcement of Virgil Abloh as Louis Vuitton’s new men's artistic director will send shockwaves through fashion and beyond. From Kanye to Been Trill, Pyrex Vision to OFF-White and now, Louis Vuitton, the Illinois-born creative polymath who has no formal fashion education -- he was taught by his Ghana-born, seamstress-skilled mother but he studied architecture and civil engineering -- has torn down fashion’s walls. From the moment he launched Pyrex Vision in 2012 with a collection of Champion tees, hoodies, basketball shorts and flannel shirts, reimagined and repurposed through collegiate lettering and Renaissance artwork, Abloh has shaken the industry up. Now he’s leading the charge in Paris.

Developing out of the social media-driven lo-fi, Tumblr-inspired streetwear phenomenon that was Been Trill, his endeavors have always felt like an infinite Tumblr scroll, an ever evolving feed of collections, artwork, installations and performances. Abloh is one of the reasons why the industry finally began to take streetwear seriously over the last few years, so seriously in fact, that OFF-WHITE was a finalist in this the 2015 LVMH Prize. “To me, that was the highest accolade that I could have ever asked for in a career,” Abloh explained to i-D at the time. “Some kid from Chicago that learned about fashion through shopping at Louis Vuitton, who then started putting out Pyrex 23 T-shirts which ended up evolving into OFF-WHITE, to then be validated by LVMH in any way, is groundbreaking for me," he added. His is quite the journey, a new American fashion dream. Despite the plaudits and accolades, Virgil has continued to fight, push and break down walls because this is how you break the establishment.

"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,” Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman & CEO explained in a statement released this morning. Reminding us of the time Abloh, along with longtime creative collaborator Kanye West, interned at the Italian house -- earning just $500 a month in their bid to learn more about the luxury industry -- and underlined just how far Abloh has come in twelve years. “His sensibility towards luxury and savoir-faire will be instrumental in taking Louis Vuitton’s menswear into the future,” Burke added.

"It is an honour for me to accept the position of Men’s Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton. I find the heritage and creative integrity of the House are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times," Abloh explained in the release.

So what does luxury mean in 2018? Well, the master of high-low will share his debut definition in June but he hinted at what’s to come in an phone conversation with The New York Times. “This opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams. And to show a younger generation that there is no one way anyone in this kind of position has to look is a fantastically modern spirit in which to start.” Changing fashion culture from the inside out, Abloh has long been at the forefront of a new generation that have been busy dismantling exclusionary structures in art, music and, finally fashion, but now he has the power and influence to bring about real change. The revolution will not be televised, it will be streamed live on Instagram Stories.