Last Monday, the fashion world seemed shook by the news: luxury brand Louis Vuitton named streetwear designer and founder of Off-White, Virgil Abloh as its new head designer for menswear. Being ignorant as I am in fashion, I asked my best friend and fashion design student, in his third bachelors year, Will Roque, for a helping hand. Here are his thoughts about this affair.
WHATWOULDITBE: Hi Will! Thank you for taking your free day to talk about this news that a lot of people seem to feel torn about! How did you find out about it?
Will: Hey, it’s a pleasure to talk to you about this. Like everyone on a Monday morning, I found out on Instagram that Virgil became head designer of the menswear for LV. Obviously after entering uni, other students were talking about it too…it was lit.
WHATWOULDITBE: So… were they happy about it?
Will: Opinions were quite split. No one was “happy” about it, but also no one was, like, really against it. Meaning… most of us do not know what to expect/are curious to see what’s going to come out of it. As he’s known for being the Off-White founder, which is a streetwear brand, the first thought is: it’s weird to think of him as a head designer for a luxury brand like LV. But, after talking to people around me and after doing some research, I found out that he also worked for Fendi before, so it’s not like he has no experience in the luxury department.
In my personal view, the fact that he studied architecture, and now works as a fashion designer, is a very interesting concept. Because these two worlds have different rules and laws, and shifting from one to another, enables his creativity to spread wider. He seems smart, creative and interesting and I therefore respect him as a designer.
WHATWOULDITBE: What seems to be the problem with streetwear coming together with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci, to a fashion designer student like you?
Will: By now, everyone and everything is collaborating in various industries. So, it’s not the fact that different styles are getting mixed up together. It’s not weird anymore: now we see even Ikea and Off White collaborating. That’s not where my problem was. But Louis Vuitton is such an established brand and also, because of where I come from (Luxembourg), I associate it to a specific kind of customers. To think of the founder of Off White, being the designer of a brand like Louis Vuitton, from a personal perspective, seemed a bit odd to me at first.
In the past last years, hip hop (which obviously goes hand in hand with streetwear) has been embracing luxury brands A LOT. You see them all embracing it, from the USA to European countries to Asia… I mean …. “Gucci gang Gucci Gang”. That also bring those luxury brands more fame and it also got them to reach another public. But well, this works only for rich rappers because random people still can’t afford that.
Then again, I do not know if this is legitimate. In the end if you have money, you’re going to buy those brands if you want to. Especially if you think about luxury, those brands pop up first. Everyone would like to have a Chanel bag if they had the money.
Fashion has become so boring and I guess that’s why all of these collaborations have emerged. People are trying to mix up things and collaborate with unusual stuff in order to try and make it a bit more interesting. However, by now we’ve also seen so many collabs and remixing things together, that LV adopting a streetwear designer is not that much of a shock or even a surprise to most people.
WHATWOULDITBE: Could it be that these opinions are so torn, not necessarily because of Abloh’s designer skills or from what milieu he comes from. Could it be that some might be unhappy about his heavy contemporary hip hop influence?
Will: From a general point of view, and not a fashion design student point of view: There are these people that are into hip hop or especially mainstream hip hop I guess. I would say like 21Savage, Drake, Kanye West and Migos, to name a few examples. Those people, because of Abloh’s relationship to the hip hop world, obviously they are also going to love what he does. Just like Kanye West is very popular as a musician, has big fanbase and you see those same fans risking their lives, camping and all kinds of things to get some Yeezys.
On the other hand, you have the people that go against “mainstream things”. Because of the designer or artists being linked to the hip hop world, and vice versa, these anti-“mainstream” people end up being against this Louis Vuitton choice (IF they even care about brands like Louis Vuitton at all) and other collabs like these. And then, I guess you also just have more traditional people, more conservative in fashion. Those are the ones that can’t or won’t take it that someone like Virgil Abloh is partially taking over a luxury brand like LV.
WHATWOULDITBE: Do you feel hopeful seeing a luxury brand getting closer to streetwear? Is that something that inspires you for your designer career in the future?
Will: I don’t really care about Louis Vuitton, to be honest. I’m curious to see what the outcome is going to be. But it doesn’t influence me as a designer or an artist though.
An important point that a friend of mine made, is that basically the problem that we have with Virgil Abloh being the new menswear creative designer for LV, is the fact that he is an established designer, he has his brand and his name in very different artistic domains. There are so many young designers and good designers out there, and more and more to come, that could very much be even a better choice for big brands instead of, how my friend put it “trading the same designers around from brand to brand like soccer players”. And that is a bit demotivating, when you think about your future. It is hard to make it as a designer in that sense. But at the same time, it might also push people to work against it.
WHATWOULDITBE: Virgil is living in Paris now, would you hop by to have some croissants with him?
Will: Yes, totally!