It’s a new day at Louis Vuitton.
The storied French fashion house has officially tapped Virgil Abloh for artistic director of its menswear collections, making him the first African-American designer to sit in the role at the house. His appointment follows the departure of Kim Jones, who left Vuitton to replace Kris van Assche as artistic director at Christian Dior men’s. Jones was popularly known for buzzy collaborations with unexpected brands like Supreme.
For Abloh, the new gig will challenge him to wear many hats at the same time. The Chicago-born designer is not only Kanye West’s friend and creative director, he’s also the man behind celebrated ready-to-wear brand Off-White, which he founded in 2013 and is beloved by celebrities like Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber. As The New York Times points out, Off-White won the Urban Luxe award at the 2017 British Fashion Awards and the brand was a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize in 2015.
On Monday, Vuitton shared the news in an Instagram post. “Having followed with great interest Virgil’s ascent since he worked with me at Fendi in 2006, I am thrilled to see how his innate creativity and disruptive approach have made him so relevant, not just in the world of fashion but in popular culture today,” Louis Vuitton Chairman and CEO Michael Burke said in a statement.
“I feel elated,” Abloh told The New York Times. “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,” he said. “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.
As the Times points out, there are not many other black designers that lead a luxury fashion house like Vuitton. Namely, Olivier Rousteing is creative director at Balmain, while Ozwald Boateng was the men’s wear designer at Givenchy between 2003 and 2007.
In addition to his street-wear know-how and penchant for cool–he's worked with brands like Nike and artists like Takashi Murakami—Abloh could also potentially shift Vuitton in a political direction. In 2017, he addressed the global immigrant crisis at Pitti Uomo by skipping the runway and teaming up with artist Jenny Holzer.
“I want to use Louis Vuitton’s history with travel to really look at different cultures around the world to help make all our humanity visible. When creativity melds together with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together. Fashion on this level can really open eyes,” he told the Times.
Abloh will debut his first Louis Vuitton show at Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.