By Tanya Mwamuka.
If you are as enthusiastic as I am about fashion there is no doubt you would have heard Louis Vuitton’s newest appointment; Ghanaian- American Designer, Virgil Abloh. Abloh has been was announced as the French luxury house’s newest artistic director for their menswear. Abloh’s first show is set to take place this June at Paris Fashion week.
So who is Abloh and what are his credentials? Abloh has been known for his unusual take on high fashion, marrying it well with street wear and urban culture. The 37 year old started on a very different pathway, receiving an undergraduate in Civil Engineering and a masters in Architecture. Alongside friend and rapper Kanye West, he began his career in fashion, interning at Italian fashion house Fendi. In 2011 Abloh held the role of art director for Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album Watch the Throne which he was subsequently nominated a grammy for. Shortly after in 2013, he launched Pyrex Vision, which brought him into the spotlight. Pyrex blended in the mass of streetwear brands, only distinguishing itself due to it being worn by celebrities such as Kanye West, Jay Z and Asap Rocky.
Pyrex Vision was quickly discontinued after one year despite its success, and his high end Milan based brand Off White was then born. Off White, being a hybrid brand, provided streetwear attire for both men and women with luxury price tags. At first it seemed to be a regurgitation of Pyrex with a different name, but with refinement year after year it gained respect amongst the luxury community, establishing Abloh as a serious designer.
But has Abloh’s appointment changed inclusivity and diversity within the fashion industry? The fashion industry has much to say about this appointment, Edward Enninful amongst them noting “His appointment is a step in the right direction for diversity, as well exciting creative movement for the industry”. Much like the use of more inclusive models, there also seems to be a domino affect of people of colour gaining artistic control. This was recently ignited by the appointment of Enninful as Editor and Chief of British Vogue last August.
It’s easy to think that Abloh’s new position has solved the epidemic of racism within the industry but that simply isn’t true. The issue with labelling appointments like Abloh’s or Enninful as ”progressive” or “revolutionising” is that they hardly make a dent in actually solving these issues. The infrastructure of fashion is set-up to promote exclusivity and with the little bit of black influence whitewashed to fit what the industry sees as suitable. So instead of the industry delving deeper into the structure which fuels this, creatives like Abloh are used as front men. The industry appears progressive when really nothing is. In some ways this is almost comparable to Barack Obama’s win of the presidential elections. Many spoke of America entering a “post- racial” era, which is laughable when you consider the events which unfolded, showing it is in fact a polar opposite.
The real impact of Abloh’s new role:
Yes, putting black creatives in artistic control is definitely a positive, but it’s p only scratching the surface in solving the racial issues and lack of diversity that persist. Fashion houses, influencers and creatives in power need to do better and be made accountable if we are to see real change. Abloh’s appointment as a way of resolving this has been very much exaggerated and if anything, Virgil’s streetwear background is the real reason, for me at least, which makes his appointment revolutionising.
His unique hybrid approach to design has opened the doors of luxury to a generation who have always felt alienated by its impenetrability. To think, Abloh has no formal fashion training, yet the king of collaborations has superseded anyone’s expectations. It’s no doubt that his quick rise to fame and influence in the industry is deserving for his new post. Congratulations Virgil, you truly have done something incredible.
Tanya is currently studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester and hopes to get into science journalism and media after completing her degree. She loves fashion and travelling and enjoys learning languages in her spare time; she’s currently learning French.