Give Virgil Abloh the wheel and he’s going to drive at max speed. The Off-White designer and newly minted Louis Vuitton Men’s Artistic Director made his debut on Thursday in Paris at the Palais Royal, and boy, did the American DJ-turned-fashion industry unicorn give us plenty to unpack with the spring-summer 2019 collection.
First up? The celebrities. In case you didn’t know, Abloh has served as a "creative collaborator" (not the creative director) to Kanye West for years, and the two are super tight. In true bro form, they hugged it out at the end of the show, with Abloh running into West’s arms once the final model hit the runway.
The front row also included Calabasas’s finest, aka Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Travis Scott. In a funny twist of fate, Scott's ex—Rihanna—was also in attendance, seated nearby more fans/friends like Bella Hadid, Naomi Campbell, and Rita Ora.
Holographic handbags, utilitarian vests, and oversize floral prints aside, what was truly ground-breaking about Abloh's show was the fact that his debut marked the first time a black designer was at the helm of Vuitton in Paris. To bring you up to speed, Paris is a city known for designers who cling tightly to tradition, and where legends like Karl Lagerfeld continue to thrive, despite frequent derogatory and offensive comments.
You could even say that there are similarities between Abloh’s presence at the Palais Royal to Meghan Markle’s at the royal wedding. Here’s a black American rewriting the rules of European tradition. Abloh’s parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh, sat front row.
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“The elephant in the room is that I come from a different place, into this, like, storied lineage of fashion,” Abloh said in an Instagram clip, comparing his presence in the fashion community to that of a black cowboy in a Western flick.
On the runway, white models were a minority, with the first 17 of 56 looks shown exclusively on black male models—a huge win for diversity. Rapper Kid Cudi walked the catwalk as well, and West’s “I Thought About Killing You,” a new track off Ye, played in the background along with “Ghost Town,” another West track featuring Cudi. It felt familial, and as Christian “King” Combs, P. Diddy’s son told WWD, a celebration of “black excellence.”
Abloh also offered a subtle nod to Pride Month and the LGBTQ community. While it wasn’t explicitly described as such, the entire catwalk at the show’s venue was lit up with the colors of the rainbow, a symbol used to express solidarity with the queer community.
While America has been dealing with an immigration crisis, Paris welcomed Abloh with arms wide open. His message? “You can do it too.”
Scroll down to see all the celebrities at the Louis Vuitton men's spring-summer 2019 show.