Since Louis Vuitton announced the appointment of Virgil Abloh, the Ghanaian-American designer behind fashion label Off-White, as its new head of menswear, the anticipation and excitement of his first collection for the French luxury brand has been feverish.
In the afternoon heat of the Palais-Royale gardens on Thursday 21 June, the American designer introduced his take on Vuitton, starting with a new lexicon.
“The biggest goal for a first collection in any scenario is to start so that people can understand the new vocabulary,” he wrote on Instagram before the show, at which each attendee was left a dictionary on their seats, or “a liberal definition of terms and explanation of ideas”, as he put it.
Reimagining is what Abloh is all about. The American designer’s appointment as Louis Vuitton’s artistic director in March was the culmination of his rise over the past three years and makes him the first designer of colour to hold such a high-profile position.
What makes his new role the most interesting is his unorthodox trajectory. The 37-year-old didn’t go to fashion school; instead his formal qualifications lie in engineering and architecture and he has had a successful career as a DJ and producer for the past two decades.
Abloh presented a glimpse of this next chapter at Paris Fashion Week on Thursday, 21 June, with Louis Vuitton’s SS19 menswear collection. Models walked the long rainbow runway donning tailored all-white ensembles to bright and colorful streetwear looks that included utility vests and marble prints, as reported by The Guardian.
When news broke of the hire, Louis Vuitton’s chief executive, Michael Burke, praised Abloh’s “innate creativity and disruptive approach”. His Louis Vuitton collection elicited a standing ovation from the audience, among whom was Abloh’s mentor, Kanye West, who hugged the emotional designer as he bowed and admitted to the audience that he was very proud.
Vuitton’s collaboration with the skatewear brand Supreme under Jones’s watch in January 2017 contributed significantly to its owner LVMH’s 29% profit increase that year. Abloh has also created sell-out collaborations, including the Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 1 Chicago trainer, for which resale prices exceeded $2,000 (£1,500).
“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,” Abloh said back in March. “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.”