The new Ghanaian-American artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, Virgil Abloh, just made his colorful debut at Paris Fashion Week. Working with the show’s theme of Diversity, Abloh made fashion week history at the Palais Royale gardens yesterday with a powerful Spring 2019 collection. Decked in rainbow shades and unconventional materials were models of all races and backgrounds walking a 56-look collection appropriately named “Color Theory”.
Known as the iconic founder of edgy streetwear label Off-White, Abloh has been making headlines in the fashion world as a crowd favorite amongst black designers and creative directors for his radical and innovative thinking that refreshed the French luxury house into a modern streetwear staple for the next generation. Only five years into his own label, and Abloh has already seen tremendous success amongst fashionable youth. The collection introduced his personal dictionary of terms invented by the young creative, like “Accessomorphosis”, referring to his series of accessories that morph into garments. Pencil pouches sewn into sleeves, leather bibs and monogrammed vests, and bum bags were just a few of these fusions seen on the runway yesterday.
The rainbow-colored runway (both the literal catwalk and the designs themselves) were an ode to diversity in multiple layers. Celebrating racial diversity was one of the key elements of Abloh’s show, in which a color-coded map displayed the ethnic origins of each of the models and their parents. As the first black creative director of Louis Vuitton, and one of three black directors of a French maison, Abloh himself has been an iconic representation in the movement towards diversity and inclusivity within the luxury fashion industry.
The young designer is more than just a singularity in his color of skin, but also in terms of his career background and unconventional approach to design. Never formally educated in fashion, Abloh made his career as a DJ and producer for 20 years in Chicago before partnering with Kanye. Rather than trying to fit the traditional mold of what it means to be a “luxury fashion designer”, he doesn’t get caught up in the stuffy labels–part of his great appeal for so many young people. Instead, he focuses on reaching out to his fans through social media. With 2.5 million followers on Instagram, Abloh understands the modern generation and the direction fashion is going in line with its use of technology and online community. He reinvents the definition of a designer by deliberately refusing to apply the term to himself; he builds his “fandom” (another term from his personal dictionary which he describes as “two-way worship between a designer and his clientele”), creating an authentic relationship with his fans.