Why Louis Vuitton has taken a huge step forward for diversity in fashion

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Billie Bhatia
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  Virgil Abloh, the streetwear designer, has been announced as the new artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear. We take a look at what this actually means

If you aren’t already familiar with the name Virgil Abloh, get to know it. He is shaking up the fashion game unlike any other designer right now.

Abloh is the man behind Off-White, one of the biggest streetwear brands on the circuit – a ticket to his Fashion Week shows in Paris is the hottest in town. He is also Kanye West’s long-time collaborator on Yeezy and has consulted on the brand since it began. In fact he is the king of collaborations: he created the most-desired collection of trainers for Nike in over a decade, teamed up with Byredo on an immediate cult-status fragrance, and we wait with baited breath for him to break the internet with his forthcoming Ikea collaboration.

Now, in a move that has garnered shock and praise in the industry, Virgil Abloh has been announced at the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. So why, when fashion houses are in constant flux of leadership, is this so important?

Virgil takes his bow at his AW18 Off-White show in Paris 

The Fashion Industry Is Making A Big Step Towards Diversity And Representation

Virgil Abloh one of the first black designers to hold such a high-profile position at a luxury fashion house. And Louis Vuitton is not just any luxury house – it’s the world’s biggest luxury brand. In May 2017 it was at an estimated worth £20.30billion (likely now to get a whole lot bigger). Before Abloh’s appointment, the only black men at the head of a big Parisian brand were Olivier Rousteing at Balmain – who had worked his way up to the position in-house – and, previously, Ozwald Boateng at Givenchy.

Moreover, Abloh has never had any formal fashion design training – making a clear statement that the old-school regime does not have the same archaic hierarchy it once imposed. Instead, the 37-year-old designer trained as an architect and an engineer before turning to a more creative role. While we can’t expect Abloh’s appointment to solve all of fashion’s problems, it certainly bodes well for steps forward to diversify the industry.

The highly-desirable Nike x Off-White collaboration 

Streetwear Will Now Sit Centrestage Alongside Traditional Fashion

For years streetwear has been labelled as the antithesis to catwalk looks and designs, shunned by the established houses as the younger, more wayward sibling to their structured calendars and collections.

Abloh’s own brand, Off-White, has been building up steam on the streetwear circuit for some time among men and women (you know those super-long belts? That’s him). And there isn’t a street-style photographer who isn’t versed in his Nike collaborations, which are so hyped that as soon as they dropped they were being sold on eBay for over £1,500. “Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist,” Michael Burke, chief executive of Louis Vuitton, told the New York Times. Louis Vuitton is no novice when it comes to embracing the power of streetwear: last year its then-creative director, Kim Jones, collaborated with skate brand Supreme to create the most-wanted collaboration of 2017 – an unprecedented move for a luxury fashion house. With Abloh’s obvious street credentials, streetwear is, excitingly, about to have its biggest moment yet.

One of Off-White’s sell out pieces 

While womenswear won’t directly see the effects of Abloh’s move to Louis Vuitton, it will be impossible to ignore the impact that this position with have on the industry as a whole. Here’s to a more inclusive fashion future.

Images: Getty