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26-March-2018

Louis Vuitton, one of the oldest and most powerful European houses in the luxury business has appointed Virgil Abloh as the next menswear artistic director of the brand. Virgil is the founder of the haute street wear label Off-White and a longtime creative director for Kanye West.

He will be one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house. “I feel elated,” Abloh said via phone on Sunday, adding that he planned to relocate his family to Paris to take the job at the largest brand in the stable of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury group. “This opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams. And to show a younger generation that there is no one way anyone in this kind of position has to look is a fantastically modern spirit in which to start.”

Abloh’s appointment is also a reflection of the increasing consumer-driven intermingling of the luxury and street wear sectors, which helped boost global sales of luxury personal goods by 5 percent last year to an estimated 263 billion euros (about 325 billion US Dollar in today’s time), according to a recent study by the global consulting firm Bain & Company. And it is an acknowledgment on the part of the luxury industry that it must respond to contemporary culture in new ways.

“In a way, all of my output has been to make a compelling case for me to take on a role such as this,” Abloh said. “I think of it as kind of the ultimate collaboration.”

It also presumably made a compelling case that Abloh could be the man to make Louis Vuitton men’s wear more relevant — and more visible — to the millennial generation. He will build on the foundation laid by Jones, who also gave classic men’s wear and Vuitton’s history as a luggage expert an urban edge, and recently engineered a sellout collaboration with Supreme, another street-wear success story.

Abloh said that he had been putting together an eight-page “brand manual” defining the new ethos of his Vuitton. “The first thing I am going to do is define new codes. My muse has always been what people actually wear, and I am really excited to make a luxury version of that.”

Burke added, “Louis Vuitton was not a couture house. From the mid-19th century to the 1920s and beyond it always sought to cater to the new wealthy class, not the old aristocrats.”

Abloh also said he would be focused on rethinking how the brand communicated with its consumers, including the release of products, the runway shows and the way it interacted with the global political mood.

Certainly, Vuitton will give him a bigger platform than he has had. Men’s wear is currently sold in only about 150 of the 450 Vuitton stores around the world, though the company plans to increase that by between 25 and 28 stores. There are also 13 free-standing men’s stores, with six more planned this year, according to Burke. Though LVMH does not break out specific brand performance, Burke said the men’s wear business had been growing in the double digits and “had a stellar 2017.”

- Apparel and Textile News, Apparel Talk, Indian Apparel

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