image: LVMH

image: LVMH

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has tapped Virgil Abloh to serve as the artistic director of the menswear division at Louis Vuitton. The Off-White founder, who succeeds Kim Jones, who recently stepped down from the role to join fellow LVMH-owned Dior Homme, will show his first collection during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris in June. Representatives for Louis Vuitton, the most valuable luxury brand in the world, confirmed the appointment to the New York Times on Monday. 

“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,” said Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton.

“It is an honor 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,” says Abloh, 37, who got his start in fashion by way of heavily-hyped streetwear brand Pyrex.

The first person of color to take one of the top creative positions at Louis Vuitton, Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian-American, makes history with his appointment. Known largely for to his ability to consistently put forth heavily coveted and oft-heavily branded products, Abloh has managed to create an amalgamation of all things culture – from fashion and music to furniture and art – for himself and his brand and to resonate with the youth and … build arguably unmatched hype around almost everything he touches. 

As the Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan opined in her review of F/W18 Off-White: “Does Abloh make existing products better? Or does he simply make them cooler and therefore more desirable by connecting himself to them?” This distinction “doesn’t even matter,” Givhan rightly concludes, “because what is true is that design houses, particularly big ones, swoon at the thought of stirring the kind of passion among their legions of customers that Abloh sparks in his.”

Not everyone is convinced. As Style Zeitgeist’s founder and editor Eugene Rabkin, never one to mince words, puts it in his article entitled, Louis Vuitton’s New Appointment Marks an Important Victory for Marketing Hype Over Design: “Perhaps what is more important than what hiring Abloh means for Louis Vuitton is this – his appointment is a disservice to fashion at large. Because fashion is a creative industry, there traditionally has been an implicit understanding that brands have a certain duty to creativity, not only to satisfy the critics, but to also maintain a certain cultural cache, even if it meant a slightly smaller figure at the bottom line.”

The question is, thus: Does that traditional approach to fashion that Rabkin rightly references still have a place amongst fashion’s most well-known brands? Abloh’s appointment seems to suggest that any traditional understanding of what it takes to be a creative director is no longer valid (at least not at the most heavily funded houses). It also confirms that high fashion has seen the success of Supreme’s game – create excitement and maintain it at all costs – and it wants in.