Taking Street wear To High Fashion: A Story Of Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh, one of the most notable figures in fashion, is one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018. With a unique mind creative enthusiasts only dream of, he is the kind of person who can take $ 40 deadstock t-shirts from Ralph Lauren and sell them for $ 550 just by screen printing his Pyrex logo on them.
Pyrex Vision, his first business, was a small boutique of couture street wear. He is now the first African American to be the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton Menswear in 150 years, and what’s funny is that he’s got no formal education in fashion. Having done Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a Masters in Architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology, he ended up interning at Fendi and became the creative consultant to Kanye at 22.
Virgil met Kanye at Fendi when they interned together in 2009, became friends and eventually ended up as the Creative Director of Kanye’s agency DONDA (named after Kanye’s mom). He grew up in Rockford, Illinois, printing his own t-shirts and learning the tricks of the trade from his mother, who was a seamstress. But he didn’t really find his calling until he took an art history class in college.
Taking street wear to high fashion, he is 1 of 3 black designers in leading roles at French fashion houses. Fashion and art to him aren’t just clothes, but anything ranging from furniture to transparent suitcases that let the customers take part in the designing themselves to album covers, having been nominated for a Grammy for Watch the Throne, a studio album by Jay-Z and Kanye West. The best thing about his fashion line is its gender-neutral vibe.
He shut Pyrex down after a year, giving it the rank of a mere social experiment and moved on to establish his first fashion house and second business in 2013 with the high-end street wear brand, Off-White, based in Milan, Italy. Virgil has collaborated with many brands, ranging from Nike to Jimmy Choo. His lifestyle is quite hectic; he travels for 320 days a year, taking an approximate of 8 flights per week and works from his phone at most times. His first line with Louis Vuitton debuts in September 2018 at the Paris Fashion Week.
Having redefined street wear, he plans on expanding to furniture with his Ikea furniture collection coming out in 2019. One might doubt that making him the Creative Director is a strategic move aimed at widening diversity for LV, but that’s not the case since Michael Burke, the CEO of Louis Vuitton, has known Virgil from his Fendi days and has been following his career very closely. To quote Burke, “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. His sensibility towards luxury and savoir-faire will be instrumental in taking Louis Vuitton’s menswear into the future.”
Fashion has taken a huge step in the right direction with many positive implications. For his latest project, check out Travis Scott’s Astroworld merchandise.