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The Irreplaceable Direction of Virgil Abloh 

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Virgil Abloh

By Devin Ricks

Street fashion, streetwear, has been at the forefront of the latest style trends in the past decade. Streetwear started with the notion of what was popular; its origins may be traced to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Hypebeast movement first gained attention by examining the sportswear worn by BMX, skaters, and surfers. Along with this, art has played a huge role in how streetwear is defined as a new style of fashion. The most popular labels donning these styles include Supreme, BAPE, Stüssy, Palace, and many more. However, streetwear has been elevated in the modern period in part thanks to luxury fashion. Dapper Dan was the one man who had changed the course of where streetwear was heading in the 1980’s with his “one-off” designs from luxury fashion houses, such as Gucci, that he would sell at his boutique in Harlem, NY.  

Virgil Abloh was the one who built the link between high fashion luxury houses and regular street fashion, as seen in how streetwear is characterized today inside luxury fashion. In 2002, he first began his fashion career when he met Kanye West, who would eventually appoint him as the creative director of DONDA, a tenth studio album by the American rapper. After working with West under his agency, he became an intern at Fendi. After several years of working with the luxury fashion house, he launched his first brand PYREX VISION in 2012.  

In 2013, he rebranded into what is now known as “Off-White”. He released the Spring Summer 2015 Menswear collection at Milan Fashion Week, and in 2017 he collaborated with Nike to create the deconstructed shoe collection named “The Ten” which showcased the most popular Nike shoes at the time. His legacy within fashion transcended once he stepped foot into one of the highest fashion houses, Louis Vuitton. Being named the first black creative director of a luxury fashion house had big expectations held above him; yet he prevailed. He elevated high-end fashion in an entirely different direction by breaking down the barriers set by the definition on what it means to be a luxury brand. Louis Vuitton’s direction changed drastically once Abloh’s creations took flight. His legacy will always be remembered as the late designer passed away in November of 2021. Following his death, Louis Vuitton has tried to carry on his influence of culture, style, and art; however, through the lack of innovation in designs, Louis Vuitton has fallen and continues to fall short of his legacy.  

Although Virgil Abloh is no longer alive to take fashion by storm and continue to break barriers of how fashion is defined, Ibrahim Kamara has stepped in. Kamara was Virgil Abloh’s apprentice and was mentored by Abloh while working under him at Off-White. Kamara's background is exceptional and motivating; he was born in Sierra Leone in 1990 and relocated to London when he was sixteen years old. While making his way into the fashion industry, he began styling for Abloh and Riccardo Tisci of Burberry. After making a name for himself, he became the Editor and Chief of Dazed Magazine. His persona, experience and expertise within the fashion industry is why he is taking Off-White in a direction Abloh would have seen fit. Kamara has been named the new Art and Image director of Off-White, and his breakout collection for SS23 at Paris Fashion week in September of 2022 was immaculate. His style is a clear mix of Avant Garde and Streetwear. “This collection is a celebration of that alongside our freedom to dream, create and choose. As it happens, tomorrow will mark Virgil’s 42nd birthday; this is a real celebration of our founder and all of his life’s work” (Highsnobiety, 2022). He is keeping to Abloh’s roots, but in his own way, taking the brand into a new direction of his own. However, he is still upholding the legacy left behind by Abloh.  

This legacy is the exact thing that Louis Vuitton is failing to uphold. Since the passing of Virgil Abloh, the luxury fashion house has been trying to fill the shoes of one of the most notable creative directors that has ever worked with the brand. Abloh’s last collection with Louis Vuitton had two parts: the first being named “Virgil Was Here” which was held in Miami at the end of 2021 and the second being named “The Final Bow” which was the final part to Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection. The luxury house has tried to pay homage to Abloh, but they are attempting to replace his revolutionary creative direction with that of their own. The brand is failing at this attempt, as they are not following the direction that Abloh was taking them. They are receding into their roots while trying to save themselves from drowning. Their latest collection for Spring Summer 2023 consisted of atrocities; no look from this collection was innovative, attractive, or stunning. Their newly appointed creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, did not meet the expectation that Louis Vuitton had set for themselves, even before Abloh was the creative director. You can still see how subtly Abloh's silhouettes were used, despite their feeble attempts to duplicate them with the rest of their designs. Comparing the two Spring Summer 2023 collections between Kamara of Off-White and Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton, there is a clear influence of the design concepts from Abloh, but with two entirely different directions and styles.  

Louis Vuitton needs to take their own direction now that Abloh is no longer here. Instead of trying to recreate Abloh in their designs, Louis Vuitton instead should take a note from his innovation, and continue to break through fashion barriers in the industry. Even though Abloh may not be regarded as the greatest designer, his contributions to the fashion industry are irreplaceable. Louis Vuitton is trying to fill his shoes, which is not possible. Kamara, on the contrary, knows what he needs to do to take Abloh’s brand, Off-White, in his own direction, while keeping true to his experience working with Abloh and the lessons taught through his mentorship.  

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