How An Architect Became The Buzziest Name In Fashion

How did a former architect become the new head of Louis Vuitton?

Teen Vogue
GREY Journal

Let’s play the word association game for a minute and see if anything clicks: Kanye and Playboi Carti. Pyrex and LV. Rimowa and Nike. Ikea and Takashi Murakami. All these things have one name in common — Virgil Abloh.

Virgil Abloh’s Rise To Louis Vuitton

Virgil Abloh artistic director for Louis Vuitton
Virgil Abloh artistic director for Louis Vuitton

The late Karl Lagerfeld was asked last year by W Magazine who were the buzziest names in fashion. He said he’d rather “kill himself” than choose the options presented to him. Three people were in tow, namely: Simon Porte Jacquemus, Jonathan Anderson, and Virgil Abloh. Instead, he pitched Designer Marine Serre as his response and brushed the others aside. Case in point, Marine is a French designer who won the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Designers in 2017.

For streetwear fanatics and luxury bourgeoisie, Virgil Abloh may have been the clear contender. Either way, he’ll continue to beat others in the game as he rises to the creme de la creme of fashion. To top that off, his ascent into fashion was unconventional. For a millennial, it’s inspiring, badass, and revolutionary to climb the ladder without a diploma in fashion design. Though it was the norm many years ago to gain an apprenticeship with a senior designer or creative director and then work your way up, nowadays you have to go the traditional route. This means getting a degree, plus having talent, connections, confidence, design prowess, and street cred to get past recruitment officers and make it on a luxury house payroll.

Architect Turned Fashion Designer

Virgil Abloh standing in Louis Vuitton elevator
Virgil Abloh standing in Louis Vuitton elevator

In this case, Virgil Abloh, the Ghanian-American architect-turned-Artistic Designer for the pre-eminent fashion house, Louise Vuitton, didn’t have to go in linear order. In ways, he’s an amalgam of intersectionalities in modern culture. He is a mix of architecture, streetwear, and American culture sprinkled with European luxury. Rihanna and the Kardashian clan weren’t the only ones who were shocked by the news of Virgil being in LV. It took the world a minute to digest what was happening in fashion. In my case, group chats and direct messages were buzzing with the news when it broke out that he was appointed the job.

From an aspiring architect meeting with his professors, Rem Koolhaas and Thomas Kearns—who also made their way into fashion through the shops they created—Virgil learned that fashion can merge with architecture. Kanye came into the equation in due diligence of Virgil, working at a Chicagoan screen-printing shop by way of designer Don C. Don C commissioned Virgil to make designs, and the rest is history.

Virgil Abloh, The New Karl Lagerfeld

Virgil Abloh strolling with suitcase into Louis Vuitton warehouse
Virgil Abloh strolling with suitcase into Louis Vuitton warehouse

It goes without saying that some compare Virgil to being the new Karl Lagerfeld. And with that unofficial moniker, it seems he’s shaking up the walls that made fashion so elusive a practice. When he couldn’t get magazines to feature his works, he had to use Instagram as his portfolio. Breaking into the mainstream wasn’t easy. But resourcefulness, together with grit, creativity, and being the pulse of what’s new and now, is evident in his work and his social media. He is breaking the glass ceiling and opening doors for upcoming artists.

I see Virgil as a pioneer for breaking barriers, but that remains to be seen as he is just embarking on his journey to Louise Vuitton’s hallowed walls. With Virgil as a creative head and their openness to start a new chapter for their label, it seems LV is heading on the right course. Now, the world is waiting for the next big thing as the new captain steers towards the future. Lead  the way, man!

Marion provides style content for GREY Journal magazine. Currently, she is a womenswear designer based in the PH. She was a finalist in one of the country's prestigious design competitions hosted by the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines. Her dresses had been featured in Business World High Life magazine, Sense and Style magazine, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, etc. She became a semi finalist (top 15) for boutique label, Red Vatican UK, on their first international open call competition for their label's launch. She obtained a degree before being employed as an assistant designer to a couture house in Manila. She continued to get a certification in dressmaking in Samson College of Science and Tech, thereafter. She also had taken initiatives to stretch further awareness of the field through judging, guesting in radio shows or giving a talk. Recently, she served as a content consultant for Cinereach (a New York based film foundation) doing digital strategy related tasks together with their social media team for their award winning documentary 'Matangi/Maya/M. I. A.' about the acclaimed artist.

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