Artistic director of Louis Vuitton and founder of Off-White, Virgil Abloh died last Sunday at the age of 41. The designer had reportedly been secretly battling a rare form of cancer since 2019. Luxus+ Magazine has chosen to pay tribute to the fashion darling and idol of millennials through his many landmark collaborations. Portrait of an incredible societal and identity phenomenon.
You don’t have to be an expert in the luxury or fashion industry to have heard of the multidisciplinary designer Virgil Abloh, creator of the Off White brand in 2013 and Artistic Director of the men’s collections of the Louis Vuitton house since 2018. The collaborations of this jack-of-all-trades with an atypical profile, who is at the same time a DJ, an architect by training and a former adviser to Kanye West, can be counted in the twenties over the last few years : brands from all sectors were snatching him up.
So why does everything he touches turn into a success ? This king of luxury streetwear is a social media fanatic: with 5.5 million followers on Instagram and 10.7 million for his label Off-White, it’s no surprise that he has established himself in a few years as one of the coolest designers among a hyper-connected audience of millennials. It is therefore logical that brands looking for an audience among this much sought-after target want to associate their image with his.
A collaboration with Virgil Abloh is a guarantee of substantial media buzz on an international scale. Each new Virgil Abloh co-branded project generates a flurry of press articles and incredible buzz within the designer’s community of aficionados. Ideal for a brand that wants to rejuvenate its image and attract, not to say recuperate, the fans of one of the most “bankable” designers of our time.
Virgil Abloh is also a strong societal and identity symbol : this son of Ghanaian immigrants born in Illinois, has landed one of the most coveted jobs in fashion, for the flagship label of the LVMH group. A remarkable success, in a sector considered rather elitist, in which few people of immigrant background are raised to such a prestigious position.
The brands are not mistaken: Virgil Abloh ticks all the boxes. He is a strong generational and community role model, in addition to being an outstanding designer who has been able to combine luxury and streetwear codes since the creation of his brand Off-White. But he is also a complete artist.
From his beginnings with Off-White, to his creative union with Ikea, through his first steps at Louis Vuitton, his omnipresence is disconcerting and the emulation, even idolatry, that he generates on both sides is reminiscent of that which has generated great fashion icons like Yves St. Laurent in their time. Let’s bet on many new collaborations in the years to come. Will they all remain in the annals ? Only history will tell us.
Virgil Abloh x Ikea
The most retained in the collective imagination because a priori incongruous, while very legitimate when we know the academic skills of Virgil Abloh, is the one of November 2019 with Ikea. The very limited capsule, entitled MARKERAD, sold like hot cakes at the opening of the bakery to the “happy few” who were lucky enough to be able to get it despite the almost drastic conditions of acquisition (limitation of the quantities that can be purchased, queue on site from 6am, etc.).
Nike x Virgil Abloh
Or the many collaborations with the Nike brand, closer to the designer’s streetwear territory. The Air Max, the Air Jordan, the Blazer, the VaporMax… In total, 10 of Nike’s iconic models were revisited in 2017 by Virgil Abloh on the occasion of The Ten project. A series of sneakers, inspired by Michael Jordan, of whom the designer is a big fan, and by the 90s, and articulated around two themes – Revealing and Ghosting -, merging Virgil Abloh’s avant-garde approach and his sharp knowledge of design.
Moncler x Virgil Abloh
In June 2016, it is with Moncler that Virgil Abloh signs a collection named Moncler O, inspired by the wardrobe of Scandinavian fishermen in the far north.
Jimmy Choo x Virgil Abloh
As for the Off-White c/o Jimmy Choo collaboration, it was released in February 2018. Virgil Abloh pays tribute to Lady Diana, unveiling a pair of ’90s-inspired shoes embellished with modern-day conceptual details. The models are thus adorned with plastic, tulle, flowery cases and stones, for a result that remains true to the DNA of both houses.
Moët & Chandon x Virgil Abloh
In 2018, the prolific designer partnered with Champagne house Moët et Chandon to create the Moët Imperial Nectar Rosé bottle with all-white labeling and Virgil Abloh’s signature “DO NOT DROP” etched on the side.
Rimowa x Virgil Abloh
Again in 2018, Virgil Abloh signed for Rimowa a See Through luggage in transparent polycarbonate with black handles, so the design of the container is determined by its contents.
Baccarat X Virgil Abloh
Released in 2019, the collection “Crystal Clear” from the crystal house Baccarat, is signed by the hand of Virgil Abloh. The result: a collection consisting of a light fixture, vases, as well as some glasses. All made on demand and numbered.
“In all my creative projects, I like to collaborate with the best in the discipline I work in. For me, Baccarat embodies the evolution of crystal from its beginnings to today,” said Virgil Abloh at the time.
Evian x Virgil Abloh
More recently, in February 2020, it was Evian that invited the designer for the second time to customize one of its glass bottles. The new limited edition collection entitled Activate Movement is intended to be “eco-friendly“.
Mercedes Benz x Virgil Abloh
In 2020, Mercedes Benz hired the creative services of Virgil Abloh to sublimate the G-Class off-roader, the German carmaker’s emblem that celebrated its 40th birthday the previous year, through a unique art installation. This collaboration allows three parallel worlds to intersect: fashion, art and the automobile. The prototype of the Geländewagen project with its minimalist design and sleek details was unveiled in September 2020. A scale model of the car was auctioned by Sotheby’s. All proceeds from the auction were donated to a program that supports artistic initiatives.
Braun X Virgil Abloh
In 2021, for the hundredth anniversary of the famous German brand, Virgil Abloh has chosen to modernize the iconic wall-mounted Hifi system. Released in 1965, Braun’s Wandanlage, has been transformed into a work of “functional art” by the American designer.
“As a designer, I continue to challenge the way art is perceived in today’s culture. Functional art’ is an enduring legacy of the unchanging power of good design that is simple, useful and made to last,” Virgil Abloh had explained.
A reissue that was accompanied by a short film and a piece of music “eclectic, without any particular genre“.
“My musical tastes have no boundaries; they don’t fit into a particular box or category, just as I or my work don’t fit into a single framework“, said Virgil Abloh.
We can indeed wonder about the limits of this hyperactive jack-of-all-trades. Limits, he hardly knows any. Virgil Abloh is as comfortable with fashion, architecture, music as he is with cars. He is undoubtedly a master of design in its broadest sense. He handles fabric, leather, paper, concrete, plastic and glass with skill. No material, no artistic technique seems to take him out of his comfort zone.
Physical limits, however, seemed to impose themselves in 2019. Recall that the designer had announced in September of the same year to take a break of 3 months on medical orders. The news had panicked the web, worried that this break is the premises of a longer shutdown. Virgil Abloh tragically left on November 28, 2021 at the age of 41, leaving his brand Off-White and the house of Louis Vuitton orphaned.
Read also > This article is taken from the one dated September 27, 2020 : THE GREAT COLLABORATIONS IN THE HISTORY OF FASHION AND LUXURY (EPISODE 3): VIRGIL ABLOH, THE CO-BRANDING SUPERSTAR
Featured photo : © Virgil Abloh / LVMH
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