Is there such a thing as “Black Man Magic”? If there isn’t, then someone needs to start that hashtag and pin it to Virgil Abloh, the designer of luxury-streetwear label Off-White. The 34-year old-Chicago native has done in five short years what it takes many a lifetime in the fashion business to achieve: create a commercially successful label, dress a cadre of celebrities, secure lucrative collaborations with brands like Nike and Jimmy Choo, and be awarded Streetwear Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Council—making him the first black designer to ever win a British Fashion Council Award.
On Friday, Abloh was nominated by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for both Menswear and Womenswear Designer of the Year. On Monday the fashion flock woke to the news that LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that owns Fendi and Dior, among other industry-defining brands, has appointed Abloh as the new menswear designer for Louis Vuitton, one of the crown jewels of Parisian fashion.
Though Abloh has no formal fashion-design training, his background is in interior design and being Kanye West’s artistic director (the two also interned together at Fendi). When it comes to predicting what people will want and marketing it to consumers in an irresistible way, Abloh is nothing short of magic. Sales of his cult-status label, Off-White, have increased 230 percent year-on-year at high-end British department store chain Selfridges, according to British Vogue.
When the outlet broke the news of Abloh’s Louis Vuitton appointment Monday morning, its editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful—a longtime champion of Abloh’s—said: “Virgil is one of the few designers who truly marries street culture with high fashion—and the first black designer to be given such a position in the gilded halls of LVMH. His appointment is a step in the right direction for diversity, as well as a particularly exciting creative moment for the industry.”
In the same article, Abloh, who will continue to run his Off-White label, was quoted as saying: “It is an honor for me to accept the position of men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton. I find the heritage and creative integrity of the house are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times.”
But last September, Abloh gave some context to his unexpected evolution into a luxury designer while at a panel discussion he hosted with Nike: “My motivation is, in a part, a bit of angst that comes from feeling like I don’t belong; that our generation doesn’t belong. I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t just going to be a consumer; that at least one of us would appear at the end of a Parisian runway.”
And like magic, this June, Abloh will take a bow at the end of one of the most prestigious runways in the world at Paris Fashion Week. The fashion world is anxiously waiting to see what kind of #BlackManMagic Abloh will pull out of his hat.