From Illinois to Paris: The Rise of Virgil Abloh
“I want a young generation to know, hey, there’s someone here who’s listening,” Virgil Abloh tells Vogue.com in an interview. As the chief executive officer of revered streetwear label Off-White, and the very first African-American to be at the helm as Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, there is a lot to be celebrated about the career of this civil engineering graduate-turned-fashion designer. Get to know the story behind his meteoric rise of Virgil Abloh in our latest luxury review.
Beginnings in Illinois and Wisconsin
Born to Ghanaian immigrant parents in a town near Chicago, Abloh was immediately taught the tricks of the trade by his mother – who worked as a seamstress. Still, he took a very different route in terms of his education, completing an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is also here that he would meet Kanye West’s then-manager John Monopoly, signaling the start of his creative partnership with the rapper.
Building on this highly technical background, he would then go on to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology, this time graduating with a master’s degree in Architecture.
A Rising Career With Kanye West
In 2009, Abloh and West would become interns for Italian fashion house Fendi, at the brand’s headquarters in Rome. Despite their credentials, they were surprisingly treated like any other intern would have been – fetching coffee, going around the city for errands, as well as taking part in minor creative work.
Still, their work seemed to have paid off. “I paid them $500 a month! I was really impressed with how they brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way,” then-Fendi CEO Michael Burke said in an interview for the New York Times.
In addition, Abloh would continue to work with West for other high-profile endeavors, including art directing a collaboration album with Jay-Z, and assuming the role of Creative Director at Donda, West’s own content agency.
Making A Mark With Off-White
2013 finally saw Abloh launching his own label Off-White in Milan, which he describes as a multi-platform creative endeavor. Combining ideas from streetwear, ready-to-wear, art, music, and travel, his creations are known for their rebellious urban aesthetic, covered with ironic labels and creative symbols that have become a signature.
Because of its distinctive style, Off-White would quickly become one of fashion’s hottest brands, with its handbags and sneakers often worn by A-list celebrities like Beyoncé, as well as streetwear fans everywhere from Toronto to Tokyo.
In 2015, the label was also named a finalist for the coveted LVMH Prize, only losing out to competitors Marques’ Almeida and Jacquemus.
Today, Off-White remains one of the world’s most desired streetwear labels, even making its Met Gala debut this 2018 with supermodel Kendall Jenner.
In a landmark move by the LVMH Group, Abloh was named the next Artistic Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, becoming one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house.
Recently, he unveiled his very first Louis Vuitton collection at the Palais-Royale gardens in Paris, showcasing 56 different looks all characterized by their multicolour design. Here, Abloh reimagined many brand staples, such as travel bags in special iridescent fabrics, the signature ‘LV’ monogram in graffiti form, and even his own take on high-top sneakers.
With his creative leadership at Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh is sure to attract his already established following to the French brand, as well as open more doors for new voices to take center stage in the world of fashion.
Continue to #FindYourLuxury in Virgil Abloh’s celebrated designs – gain easier access to his designer creations by talking to our luxury managers today.
June 28, 2018 // 0 Comment
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