Virgil Abloh gets seat on LVMH power table

Fashion designer, DJ and pop culture pundit Virgil Abloh is set to become the most powerful black executive in the world’s most powerful luxury goods conglomerate.

On Tuesday, LVMH announced it was acquiring a 60 percent stake in Off-White, the luxury streetwear brand Mr. Abloh founded in 2013 and which he still designs alongside his job. artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear.

In addition, Mr. Abloh, 40, will play a larger role within LVMH, operating in categories such as wine and spirits (LVMH owns Krug, Dom Pérignon and Hennessy, 30 brands) and hospitality (more than 50 hotels, including are doing. Cipriani in Venice and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire), breaking up the silos and bringing more diverse voices to different brands.

“I’m getting a seat at the table,” said Mr. Abloh cheerfully, speaking by Zoom from Chicago, where he lives.

While the definition of his job is still fairly vague (chief disruption officer?), the news gives Mr. Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian-American, a fairly broad dispatch and makes Off-White one of the rare brands in the LVMH stable in which Roots are not European heritage.

It also marks a potentially new phase in the growth of LVMH, which has emerged from the pandemic with its shares up 60 percent this year, and its first quarter doing so well (revenues are up 30 percent compared to the same period in 2020) , pre-Covid) that its president, Bernard Arnault, was briefly richest man in the world.

Louis Vuitton chief executive Michael Burke said of Mr. Abloh’s new role, “We are not trying to emulate an already existing model.” “This is exactly what Bernard Arnault did when he bought Dior and decided to form a consortium of luxury brands.” That is, shake up the status quo.

Now Mr. Arnault is trying to push his own outfit out of his comfort zone with Mr. Abloh.

The new arrangement is similar to Mr. Abloh’s collaboration – with Ikea, Nike, Champion, Vitra and Equinox, to name a few – but pumped up on a protein drink and with a longer-lasting impact. Mr. Abloh just can’t seem to find a good-looking new gig; He is getting an equity stake in whatever cross-pollinated projects he develops.

“We try to replace the founders in their graves, but in the best way possible,” said Mr. Burke. “Some of our biggest brands don’t tend to see that it’s in their best interest to stay connected to the contemporary world.”

“Joining the contemporary world” is not a problem for Mr. Abloh, who is often compared to Jeff Koons, referring to himself as a “maker” rather than a designer and “3 percent outlook”, which believes that changing only 3 percent of a design is enough to make it new.

LVMH has been vocal about its commitments to diversity, equality and inclusion, although it has a fully-fledged White Board and Executive Committee. It didn’t help that LVMH kicked off its short-lived experiment with Rihanna last year to create a direct-to-consumer brand (though the company is associated with Rihanna through her cosmetics brand).

The new arrangement with Mr. Abloh and Off-White is part of a flurry of activity on the part of LVMH. ito Bought Tiffany’s last year In the biggest deal in luxury (its new ad campaign reads: “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany”). Last week it announced it was taking a minority stake Phoebe Philo’s new name venture; Last month it reopened the renovated department store la samaritan With the presence of President Emmanuel Macron; And the ultraluxury Cheval Blanc Hotel and Dior Spa will open in Paris later this year.

The deal also places Off-White, most famous for its ironic deployment of quotation marks (and a tendency to quote not just phrases, but, arguably, styles), in the words of Mr. Abloh for “generational development”. is.

The company, though off-white, will still be operated by New Guards Group, the Italian manufacturing company that licenses the brand (and is owned by Farfetch itself), Off-White LLC, which owns the trademark, will be subsumed into the LVMH Fashion and Leather Goods Group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Mr Burke said it “took about five minutes to come to an agreement.”

LVMH has a history of acquiring or buying a minority stake in the individual brands of designers it hires to work with its legacy labels. It’s a pattern that was developed with John Galliano when he was Dior’s creative director (he also lost the rights to his name when he was fired); Marc Jacobs, whose brand is still part of LVMH; and JW Anderson, creative director at Lowe’s.

Still, according to Mr. Burke, Off-White is the largest brand ever acquired by LVMH, with 56 stores globally and a presence in 40 countries.

Mr Abloh said he hoped the deal would ensure Off-White would “be on historic corners all over the world for years to come.” He also said that the partnership will be used to expand Off-White into categories like cosmetics and home goods, as well as develop the leather goods side of the business.

Mr. Abloh, who has a degree in engineering and no formal fashion training (his mother, a seamstress, taught him how to sew), began his relationship with LVMH in 2007, when he was creative director for Kanye West. and were both interned at Fendi, the Italian brand. In 2015, he was a finalist for the LVMH Award for Young Designers, and in 2018, he was named as Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Wear Designer.

In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Mr Abloh established the Postmodern Scholarship Fund to help black students and promote diversity in fashion. was one of the first backers of the Louis Vuitton Fund, which raised nearly $1 million; Three beneficiaries of the scholarship are doing internships at Vuitton.

“The idea is to develop a trajectory that I wish I had when I was starting out,” said Mr. Abloh. He said his new role is to open doors for non-traditional luxury candidates at all points of the industry from entry level to top. Maybe especially over the top. “I focus on relevance,” he said. “Relevance is my metric.”

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