Last week saw the upper echelon of London’s social scene skip down the yellow brick road created by Virgil Abloh in the heart of Mayfair. Abloh’s Wizard of Oz concept pop-up store was home to the Louis Vuitton men’s SS19 collection in all its visionary glory. Rita Ora, Idris Elba and Frank Ocean were amongst the celebrity guests spotted at the launch of the store on the 19th of October; but what of the newest addition to the Louis Vuitton design team? Abloh’s story to success isn’t exactly conventional.
Born and raised in a small Illinois City, the 38-year-old menswear designer graduated from university with a degree in Civil Engineering. Bypassing fashion school, Abloh spent his adult life shaping his skills as a music producer and DJ, ultimately rising to fame as the Grammy nominated designer of the album artwork for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s 2013 triumph – “Watch the Throne”.
Abloh’s timely collaboration with West stemmed from an internship at Fendi in 2009, where the pair struck up a friendship and it was the internship which would pave the way for Abloh to launch his own label, Off-White. The Milan-based label boasts a dynamic collection of street-wear and the designer has been praised by industry critics for his work with conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, whereby the pair created a line which placed emphasis on the positive aspects of immigration and cultural integration. Just days ago in The Lyst Index’s quarterly report, Off-White was named the “hottest brand on the planet”. A collaboration with furniture store IKEA can also be accredited to Abloh’s name, it seems that the creative is willing and able to try his hand at anything.
Appointed as the Artistic Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in March 2018, Abloh is the first person of African descent to lead the iconic French brand’s menswear line, placing him firmly in a small group of black designers across the entirety of Paris’ fashion houses. Having showcased his first collection during men’s fashion week in June, fans of Abloh caught a glimpse of what was to come from the talented designer in the form of embossed bags, crocodile print and unmistakable nods to the Wizard of Oz fantasy which he would later create in his Mayfair store space.
As one of the world’s most counterfeited brands, some would argue that Louis Vuitton has long-awaited the shake up that Abloh is giving to its men’s line. His first collection boasts a stitched cable roll neck, a tailored trench and a metallic silver poncho, with the phrase “follow the yellow brick road” embossed boldly on the breast patch. Charming and ethereal, Abloh’s childhood Wizard of Oz concept is played out in this capsule collection which is presented in a LV branded transparent box, rainbow coloured and entirely magical. Adorned with motifs of the film, the 2000 square foot show space, previously home to Stella McCartney’s store, is transformed into a fantastical journey to the Emerald City. Poppy fields and wild woodlands only add to the cult like concept which has been a storming success for the creative director.
Abloh, we’re not in Illinois anymore!
By Meg Painter.