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The Living Legacy of Virgil Abloh, Changemaker and Creative Force at Louis Vuitton

By Erica Kagan
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Virgil Abloh Louis Vuitton

Creative Genius

A creative genius. A multi-hyphenate who knew no bounds. A cultural disruptor. Virgil Abloh was the sum of all of these things. At only 41 years old, Abloh had redefined an industry, seamlessly merging luxury and streetwear in an unprecedented way. An architect turned musician, artist, and designer, he defied any restrictive labeling on his creativity. Instead, Virgil Abloh considered himself a “maker.” An inspiration to young creatives, Abloh not only revolutionized the luxury world with his own brand Off-White, but also reshaped the fashion landscape as artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear. When Abloh was appointed by Louis Vuitton in March 2018, he made history as the most powerful Black executive in the world’s most powerful luxury group. “This opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams,” Abloh told the New York Times in 2018. “And to show a younger generation that there is no one way anyone in this kind of position has to look is a fantastically modern spirit in which to start.”

Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh Solar Ray Papillon

We Are The World

“We are the world” is what Virgil Abloh would aptly title his inclusive first collection for Louis Vuitton in June 2018. It was the brand’s Spring/Summer 2019 show at Paris Fashion Week, and Abloh was ready to send shockwaves with his youthful embrace of color. Inspired by the Wizard of Oz, the show was brought to life with a rainbow runway and silhouettes of the characters stitched onto knit sweaters. Signature LV monogram duffles were reimagined with orange chain links, and holographic, metallic exteriors. As astutely reflected by journalist Tora Northman, “Virgil's vision was to create a universe and an experience, not just a brand or a collection.” Over the course of his next six collections for Louis Vuitton, Abloh never failed to capture an inspired narrative with his shows. And, it is his consistently sold-out, sought-after designs that serve as testament to the relatability of his creations.

Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh Zoooom With Friends Essential Trunk Gold Hardware, 2021

Team Win

“Louis Vuitton felt like a team win,” explained close friend and cultural influencer Luka Sabbat. “It was a milestone that was bigger than the clothes, or anything else. It was, like, the biggest linkup ever.” Intrinsic to his creative vision was the embrace of collaboration, and Abloh ensured that his platform at Louis Vuitton be shared with other emerging creators. These collaborations have served as the blueprint for some of Abloh’s most iconic LV designs. For Spring/Summer 2021, Abloh tapped Reggieknow – a prolific artist and cultural icon from Chicago – to illustrate characters that would define the collection. As no surprise, the monogrammed leather accessories adorned with Reggieknow’s drawings were immediately coveted. A turning point in fashion history, this would mark the first time that Louis Vuitton ever collaborated with a Black artist on the runway.

Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh LV x NBA Basketball Backpack Gold Hardware, 2020

Don C + NBA Collection

In tandem with streetwear designer Don C, Virgil Abloh established a three year capsule project with an institution just as culturally powerful as Louis Vuitton: the NBA. “This collection celebrates the cultural contribution of basketball and its diverse characters, and the idea of relatability as a force of unity,” remarked Abloh. A celebration of “pop culture, fashion and sports,” the leather accessories – from a monogram Pocket Organizer to coated canvas backpack – breathe new life into classic silhouettes.

Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh NIGO Keepall XS, 2019

Louis Vuitton x NIGO

Just last month, in one of Abloh’s final creative plays before his tragic passing, Chapter 2 of the Louis Vuitton x NIGO collection dropped. The capsule not only celebrates fashion designer Nigo’s Japanese heritage, but the intersection of diverse cultural roots under the helm of a French luxury house. Patchwork motifs are central to the collection’s accessories, with the LV Monogram “melting” into the leather surface on silhouettes like the Keepall Bandoulière and Amazone Messenger.

Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh Blue Monogram Clouds Coated Canvas Soft Trunk Wallet Silver Hardware, 2020

Spring/Summer 2022 Final Collection

From a cloud-covered Soft Trunk Wallet to a Discovery Bumbag overtaken with pastel watercolor, Virgil Abloh and his bold creations transformed an 167 year old fashion house in the blink of an eye. The Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2022 collection – recognized as Abloh’s final work – served as a tribute to and celebration of his life. In the very spirit of his first collection, a rainbow was projected across the Miami Marine Stadium and a multicolored light show lit up the expansive space. Simultaneously, one of Abloh’s most powerful lines rang over the stadium speakers: “Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.” Virgil Abloh, above all, was a creative changemaker, and the legacy he leaves behind is one that will inspire generations of changemakers to come.

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