In 2009, Fendi’s boss, Michael Burke, had lunch with Virgil Abloh and Kanye West at Settimio all’Arancio, a small Mediterranean restaurant behind the fashion brand’s headquarters in Rome.
Burke is a veteran of LVMH, now the CEO of Louis Vuitton and chairman of Tiffany, working with Karl Lagerfeld at the time. Abloh is 29 years old and is a well-trained architect and DJ. As Kanye West’s creative partner, he quickly established an image in the music and design industries.
“What impressed me most was his listening skills and observation skills,” Burke recalled his first official meeting with Abloh-they were introduced at a concert in Tokyo three years ago. Abloh and West wanted to see how a major luxury fashion brand works directly. Both of them accepted Burke’s proposal and spent time working and observing at Fendi. The brand is known for its five-figure fur coats and “it” bags. Famous, such as French bread.
But Burke is already thinking further. “I was working with Karl at the time, and I kept thinking,’What will a fashion company do today to stay in the same position as Karl after hiring Karl? What do I need to do to make the story repeat? The way they have opportunities.”
Nine years later, Burke offered Abloh one of LVMH’s most important creative positions: Louis Vuitton Menswear Art Director, which is the brand with the largest luxury income.
This week, LVMH further expanded his responsibilities, announcing that he will start launching a new LVMH brand and working with existing brands “beyond the fashion field”. LVMH has approximately 75 companies in a variety of categories, including fashion and leather goods, retail, hotels, and wine and spirits.
As part of the transaction, the group acquired 60% of Abloh. Fashion brand, Off-White, Which has grown to 58 stores since he was founded in 2014, is known for its luxurious styles of streetwear such as sweatshirts and denims, as well as iconic diagonals.
This promotion made Abloh the most high-profile black man working in the 281 billion euro luxury goods industry and LVMH. He is the first generation of Americans born to Ghanian parents, and his board of directors and executive team are entirely white.
It is appropriate to compare Abloh with the prolific Lagerfeld, but Abloh’s friends and collaborators compare him to a special icon in the American art world. “He is one of the best cultural communicators since Andy Warhol,” said Tremaine Emery, American radio, music and nightlife producer. “Andy will treat everyone from Basquiat to Burger King commercials in the same way. Andy is on the street, but he is also bringing left-wing culture into pop culture.”
Friends and colleagues say that Abloh is an “always optimist” and a perfect multitasker, a designer who ignores design rules and restrictions. He has a knack for collaboration and defines what is cool. He also knows how to find suitable candidates for work and assignments. These two qualities will help him play a good role in the newly expanded role.
“Since I knew him, he has never said negative things to a person in history,” said Justin Sanders, the designer of JJJJound, who works under Abloh of Donda, West’s agency. “He is full of positive energy. He makes everything interesting.”
Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1980 and still lives in the area with his wife he met in high school and their two children. He earned a degree in civil engineering and began working with West shortly after completing a master’s degree in architecture. In 2011, he was nominated for West Art Director and a Grammy nomination for Jay-Z’s “Watching the Throne” tour.
Abloh launched his first clothing brand, Pyrex, in 2012-a small number of screen-printed Ralph Lauren flannel shirts have been discontinued, each priced at hundreds of dollars. Although the brand closed a year later, it helped him establish a relationship that helped Off-White quickly rise, and Off-White was recognized by the industry when it was shortlisted for the LVMH Young Designer Award finals in 2015.
As his image grew larger, the brand’s interest also grew. During that decade, he successfully cooperated with Nike, Rimowa (another LVMH brand) and IKEA.
Abloh is not a traditionally trained fashion designer. His appointment at Louis Vuitton in 2018 shocked LVMH and some people in the industry. Critics say that he did not introduce anything truly novel or original to the fashion design.
Instead, friends and colleagues portrayed him as an all-rounder, not only knowing how to design products, but also how to communicate and market products.
“Maybe other designers are doing very[er] Product work, but he covers all aspects, which of course is one of the reasons we like to work with him,” Nike’s Fraser Cooke said. “You can’t deny that he greatly changed the look and feel, as well as people The way to interact with Louis Vuitton-at least for men. “
Cook brought Abloh into Nike at the end of 2016, and worked with him to redesign 10 classic Nike styles released the following year. “This is one of the most successful footwear products in history, and I have done a lot of work,” Cook said.
“He is not just someone who comes in and modifies the product in some way. He works with the ultimate goal. He is very good at coming up with ideas to further promote and position the product,” he added.
“No one continues to attract people’s attention through the many different projects and media that he is engaged in.”