Last year Virgil Abloh was announced as the creative director of mens fashion with Louis Vuitton. He is the first black man to occupy that position on LV and the moment crowned the career of the man who has blurred the lines between streetwear and high-fashion.
Son of Ghanaian immigrants, Abloh has a degree in engineering and a masters in architecture. But his academic titles were just to please his father. His passions were skating and fashion, and he managed to combine both. Along the way, he also became one of the best friends of Kanye West. Here are some steps he followed to achieve success.
Virgil Abloh is an engineer. Well, at least this is what his diploma says, but his career went many different ways. Like many people of his age, he started blogging about fashion and later started to design T-shirts and, as we know, he did very well.
"From a very young age, as a teenager, I was into hip-hop and skateboarding, and all those things that were akin to a kid in the '90s'" said Abloh to Teen Vogue. "All those things are what resulted in clothes. I hadn't learned about formalized fashion, you know. But it was something that I was interested in."
The designer followed his intuition and did not wait for someone to tell him it was a good idea. He bought many shirts, a screen printer and started to do his work. People saw him using the clothes while he was traveling, mixing fashion and streetwear, and wanted to know the brand. That is basically how Pyrex Vision was created and later the brand evolved to Off-White.
"I started the clothing with the limited means that I had," he told Teen Vogue.
You don't need to start big. But being willing to be the first one to believe in your projects is the first step to success.
Pyrex Vision called the attention of many people and put Virgil Abloh's work under the spotlight. But he knew the clothing he was making were more artistic than commercial. He decided to create another brand, Off-White. Both had something in common: they aimed to create a dialogue between fashion and streetwear.
The designer sees Pyrex Vision as a "one-time thing", while Off-White has a commercial appeal and had potential to last longer.
"The name Off-White, in my mind, is between black and white", he explained to Teen Vogue. "So, that middle ground is a mixture between both genres of fashion."
Virgil Abloh is one of the most talented names of the last few years and he made history when he was named as the Louis Vuitton creative director for menswear. But to achieve success, it is essential to know how to use your network.
Abloh met Kanye West on earlier 2000s and since then they have worked a lot together and became personal friends. West was one of the people who believed him the most and he seems to recognize it. Kanye was on the first line during Abloh first Louis Vuitton show and both cried together.
Virgil Abloh grew up in Chicago and found his way on fashion combining high-profile pieces and streetwear in a way we haven't seen before.
Like many millennials, Abloh had a blog when he was in his 20s to talk about fashion and he could feel there was a demand for the things he was interested in and shared with people.
Abloh knew the market was missing a relevant public and he created unique pieces that attended that silence demand. It was like he could feel what people wanted before they even asked for it. And that is the point that makes the difference between a competent professional and someone who will make history.
Abloh already affirmed he doesn't want to limit his public and he wants to produce clothes for everybody. But his main goal is to modernize the traditional high-fashion brands and combine it with the urban style.
"The end goal is to modernize fashion and steer a fashion house because I believe in the modernization of these storied brands," he told Business of Fashion website.
He is doing a fantastic job at Louis Vuitton and it is obvious that he will surprise us in the years to come.
Timing is everything. And when Abloh launched Off-White he gave clients what they wanted, but he also had something fresh that high-fashion needed. It was like he was able to combine both worlds and make everybody happy.
"In a large part streetwear can be seen as cheap", he said during an interview to Business of Fashion. "What my goal has been is to add an intellectual layer to it and to make it credible."
But his brand also rose at a time where people want fancy streetwear clothes. The traditional brands, like Louis Vuitton, clearly needed Abloh to connect with those new consumers.
Many times Abloh seems to be involved with projects that have a social impact. In 2017, for example, Abloh developed a line of pro-immigration and anti-neonationalism.
But his name is also involved in many controversial moments—he has been accused, for example, of stealing ideas from others.
But somehow, Abloh manages to make everything work in his favor. Every time there is a controversial topic involving his name, he sells even more.
Abloh has blurred the lines between streetwear and high-fashion. He created a successful brand, got the attention of the most traditional brands in that market and is the first black man to work as a creative director of Louis Vuitton. It sounds like he is on the top of his game and he can stop challenge himself, right? He seems to disagree.
In many interviews, he talks about his dream to work on Apple and help to design the new iPhone. So don't be surprised if he puts fashion on hold for a while and announces a new project.
Abloh didn't follow the rules, nor was he interested in what people expected from him. He graduated in engineering, got a masters in architecture, became a DJ, a streetwear designer and then moved to high-fashion.
It is almost impossible to put a label on Abloh and define work that is continuously evolving. And that works in his favor and gives him the freedom to try new things on fashion and other projects. Considering that he is only 38 years old and has a mind that doesn't stop, we are going to hear a lot more about him.