How Virgil Abloh Will Keep Up the Buzz at Louis Vuitton

Virgil Abloh’s fall ’19 Louis Vuitton menswear show — his second as the label’s creative director — will take place Jan. 17 in Paris, with the spring ’19 collection release slated for the following day.

And in the seven short months since his debut for the luxury French house in June, Abloh has drummed up a lot of noise. In October, the designer staged a weeklong, appointment-only popup at a temporary space on Mayfair’s Bruton Street for consumers to gain early access to his new Louis Vuitton designs (tickets were sold on a microsite). A similar one was held in Shanghai at the same time. Both were designed with a Wizard of Oz theme, which mirrored the spring collection’s inspiration. On Jan. 10, more drops will take place in New York and Tokyo.

“He has captured the attention and imagination of customers of an entire generation,” said Bruce Pask, Bergdorf Goodman men’s fashion director. “They relate to his aesthetic and feel connected to his signature style. It really resonates.”

“He’s the Pied Piper of modern youth,” agrees Thom Scherdel, fashion menswear buyer at Browns. “He knows how to talk to the masses on varying platforms and keeps himself busy with multichannel collaborations.”

All the collaborations and exclusive drops certainly add to his success. “They maintain a level of scarcity and continue to drive attention to a fever pitch,” added Pask, citing partnerships with Nike and Chrome Hearts. (The current Louis Vuitton residency in New York is housed at Chrome Hearts’ store in the West Village.)

He continued, “It’s difficult to separate Virgil at Louis Vuitton from Virgil himself. It’s all interconnected. Louis Vuitton capitalizes on that attention and that buzz. There is certainly a customer who feels that Louis Vuitton under Virgil has added relevance and added relatability.”

“It’s a great match,” said Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter. “Virgil has a great eye for what the consumer wants and desires, which, coupled with some of the world’s best fabrics, you have a focused luxury collection that’s setting trends.”

But it cuts both ways and as Pask also points out, “Vuitton is a great platform for Virgil to show his design skills and artistry. The manufacturing talent of that house is unparalleled.”

Despite the buzz, renowned sneaker influencer Victoria Chiang believes Abloh still has work cut out for him when it comes to keeping up the hype.

“It’s crucial that Virgil connects to his core audience from a marketing, messaging, distribution and experience perspective ahead of his next show,” she explained. “This could be more interactive popup experiences — in addition to his upcoming New York popup at Chrome Hearts, utilizing digital and innovative methods to distribute, aligning with authentic cultural influencers and having a footprint at relevant cultural moments. Engaging with these young consumers outside of just product is paramount since they not only have the most spending power, but they are also the driving forces of trends and buzz.”

Abloh has an exceptional ability to tap into popular culture and harness a mood that extends beyond fashion. Firth cites his connection with the music industry as another way for the luxury house to attract new customers. “There aren’t many brands with people at the helm where you can go to Bond Street to buy their clothes and then Brixton Academy to see them DJ,” she said.

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Virgil Abloh’s color-filled runway at Louis Vuitton spring ’19 menswear.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

His last season’s rainbow-hued runway meets Yellow Brick Road certainly hit all the right notes, as did the score composed by fellow DJ Benji B. For his second collection, Abloh may be aligning himself with another musical legend.

“The rumor is that there will be a Michael Jackson-inspired theme,” revealed Scherdel. “So based on that, I’d expect to see plenty of black and white.”

If he’s right, it will neatly coincide with the Paris leg of the “Michael Jackson: Off The Wall” exhibition tour, which is showing at the city’s Grand Palais. If the rumor is true, the timing is, as ever, impeccable.

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