Virgil Abloh was universally adored and respected for his talent, and his death last month touched millions in the arts industry. Probably best known for founding Off-White in 2012, he later went on to become Creative Director of Louis Vuitton in 2018. Despite this being where his fame originated, Abloh’s creativity goes beyond these two roles. For example, Abloh’s website is set out in a revolutionary way that expands the expectations of technology.
Abloh’s genius stemmed from his education. Earning his degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Abloh followed this with a Master’s degree in Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Abloh never felt one job was enough and never limited his expertise: this is evident in Virgil’s continued passion for things other than fashion, such as music. Abloh made music and sympathised with the arts. He also taught; Abloh lectured at academic institutions such as Harvard University.
Abloh was also engaged in other artists’ interests such as skateboarding. He gave British Skater, Lucien Clarke, the opportunity to create his own skater trainer as well as skateboard deck. Abloh’s passing was thus felt by many; as all that knew or knew of him thought he used each role he had to benefit and advantage of others.
Abloh’s vision for Louis Vuitton mirrored the futuristic domination of streetwear influence, which was colourful and contemporary
Abloh’s influence in Louis Vuitton was showcased in his first ever Men’s Spring-Summer 2019 (SS19) Fashion Show at Palais-Royal Gardens during Paris Fashion Week on 21 June 2018. The runway was successful for many reasons… Firstly, it modernised the muted, classic brown palette of Louis Vuitton into endless colour, including holographic, metallic and varicoloured too. The iridescent Louis Vuitton keepall bag was considered the hottest accessory of SS19. Abloh’s vision for Louis Vuitton mirrored the futuristic domination of streetwear influence, which was colourful and contemporary.
The show was also praised because of its inclusion of *real people*. The catwalk did not feature solely supermodels: it featured Abloh’s friends who inspired him. For example, artist, skater, and fashion designer, Blondey McCoy, from Soho, London walked his first runway for Abloh.
Abloh managed to open doors for diverse models and youth who will grow to be the next future designers
As well as inclusivity, Abloh made the show diverse. The first seventeen models to walk the runway were African-American. Abloh also reserved space near the front row for thousands of students studying at universities in Paris. He managed to open doors for diverse models and youth who will grow to be the next future designers.
Abloh also embarked on collaborations independently with his own name. For example, Abloh collaborated with Henrik Most, the creative director of the Swedish home brand IKEA in 2019. The collaboration which took place November 7th 2019 was called ‘MARKREAD’. The fifteen piece collection was stylish and affordable, and featured everyday furniture such as a table, chair, and a rug. This collaboration exemplified how Abloh genuinely wanted his creativity to inspire and be received by more of the public. Ultimately, Abloh redefined the limits of what a fashion designer could do.
The Evian project foreshadowed Abloh’s next move to realign the fashion industry with sustainability as it will help the environment for generations to come
Another one of Abloh’s successful collaborations was when he was Evian’s creative advisor for sustainable innovation design in 2018. Abloh had the role to redesign the Evian bottle as well as communicate the importance of sustainability to the youth. He thus created a plastic bottle that was dented with a hammer motif all over, which conveyed the bottle was used.
The Evian project foreshadowed Abloh’s next move to realign the fashion industry with sustainability as it will help the environment for generations to come. Abloh proved the fashion industry would still be valuable when sustainable. Both the IKEA and the Evian projects revealed Abloh’s historical awareness and cultural sensitivity, which was mirrored in his innovative design – fashion related, or not.
The most far-reaching significant difference Abloh made in fashion was the importance of creating products that reflected the current period of time
Overall, it is no surprise Virgil Abloh was named by Time Magazine as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world in 2018. It is no wonder why the death of Abloh caused wide-scale upset for the global art and fashion culture. Abloh’s legacy will live through all those who saw his excellence and determination to really better the fashion industry in terms of diversity, sustainability, and modernisation.
The most far-reaching significant difference Abloh made in fashion was the importance of creating products that reflected the current period of time. The past few years, worldwide society started to appreciate vintage clothing and Abloh understood that, and therefore went into the Louis Vuitton archives and modernised some examples. These changes increased LVMH’s revenue by extortionate amounts.
Aboh also invented a new category for fashion. Abloh’s brand Off-White is a high-end unisex street-wear brand, for the subculture of skaters. Abloh iconically used Lady Diana Spencer as a motif for the couture of Off-White’s wedding dresses, classy but with a touch of street style (just as Lady Diana’s streetstyle was athleisure with high-end jewellery and sunglasses).
For the foreseeable future, I hope aspirational designers do ask themselves “What would Virgil Abloh do?” as the answer will help to move fashion forward.