“I’m going to see Virgil,” Naomi Campbell whispered in her famously husky British accent, en route to the Paris headquarters of Louis Vuitton for a conversation with fashion’s man of the moment, designer and disruptor Virgil Abloh.
A meeting between the legendary supermodel/contributing editor of British Vogue and the innovator behind cult hit brand Off-White and now-creative director of menswear for Louis Vuitton wasn’t surprising; the two are well-established friends. But the conversation was a revealing glimpse of how two of the fashion world’s unlikeliest golden children continue to make their mark on an industry that has always seemed designed to exclude them—not that it ever deterred either, as Abloh says to Campbell:
I dreamt about it; I willed it into fruition, thinking that it could happen and doing everything in my power to sort of make it cross my path ... I think it’s a metaphor for anything one wants to do in life.
Not a traditionally trained fashion designer, the Ghanian-American Chicago native Abloh started his career on an engineering path and and eventually got a master’s degree in architecture, both of which he credits for his structural acumen. “It’s analytic plus aesthetic,” he told Vogue.
Abloh’s heavily labeled aesthetic was ultimately an ideal fit for Louis Vuitton, which has made its name—literally—on the logo-heavy handbags, luggage and clothing made famous by its even more famous clientele.
“Being at Vuitton, I think it’s super profound,” Abloh told Vogue. “On a business and CEO and management-level aesthetic, if you find a creative that’s passionate, they will carry the baton ... and they’re allowing me to place my collections in the same archives.”
Speaking mere days after his incredibly successful Paris debut for Louis Vuitton, Abloh also gives credit where it’s due—especially to friend and former Yeezy collaborator Kanye West:
Kanye and myself have been friends for 14 years now; we’ve always been driven by fashion. We’ve always been the kids in the store, wanting more ... something we didn’t know, but appreciated. ...
Kanye was the guy—when it was completely unpopular—that said, “I am not to be typecast into a box.” Like, he willed it for us ... that dream is his just as much as it’s mine. In my dream, it was him down the runway. The one thing that has to be stressed about that show is that it actually wasn’t me on the runway—it was us, it was the community—that show was us.
Abloh also spoke to Campbell about the traditional marginalization of designers who look like him, an obstacle he initially didn’t believe he’d surmount.
“I did not ever think that I could be a designer with a capital ‘D,’ because no one looked like me,” he said. “I have to get struck by a certain type of lightning to get that sort of epiphany; to be someone to tap me with a wand and say ‘you’re a designer ...’”
But Abloh is every inch a designer, as proven by the passion-project-turned-insider-phenomenon label Off-White and his newest challenge, reinterpreting and innovating menswear for Vuitton, as he told Vogue:
Now is the beginning—now the body of work starts. ... I look at the show just the other day as my first show. ... Now, we are the establishment; I will no longer be referencing the old days—and the barrier to entry ... Let’s make the world that we wanted to see ... Who can we empower next?