PARIS (Reuters) -Virgil Abloh, fashion’s highest profile Black designer, is getting a bigger role within French luxury group LVMH, which is taking a majority stake in his Off-White streetwear label.
Abloh, 40, a U.S. national who also works as a DJ and visual artist, was hired by LVMH in March 2018 to create menswear collections for Louis Vuitton, the luxury giant’s biggest revenue driver.
He will continue in that role while also working with the group to launch new brands and partner with existing ones in a variety of sectors beyond fashion, the company said on Tuesday.
His arrival at LVMH marked the marriage between streetwear and high-end fashion, mixing sneakers and camouflage pants with tailored suits and evening gowns. His influences include graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture.
The style was embraced by the world’s biggest luxury group – led by France’s richest man, 72-year old Bernard Arnault – as it sought to breathe new life into some labels and attract younger customers.
The sale to LVMH and higher profile for Abloh also show renewed interest from the group in launching new brands, after putting its Fenty label fashion venture with Rihanna on hold in February.
Over the past three years, Abloh has drawn on messages of inclusivity and gender-fluidity to expand the Louis Vuitton label’s popularity, weaving themes of racial identity into his fashion shows with poetry performances and art installations.
With an eye to reaching Asian consumers grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the designer sent his collections of colourful suits and utilitarian-flavoured outerwear off to Shanghai last summer when many labels cancelled fashion shows.
More recently, he designed U.S. film director Spike Lee’s clothes, including a hot pink double-breasted suit, for this month’s Cannes film festival, where Lee chaired the jury.
LVMH is also purchasing a 60% stake of Abloh’s Off-White label, which will be folded into the spirits-to-jewellery conglomerate.
Abloh will retain a 40% stake and continue as creative director of Off-White, which he founded in 2013. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Abloh, who was raised near Chicago by parents from Ghana, said LVMH would help him to develop Off-White into a “truly multi-line luxury brand” while he hoped his expanded role at the French company would also help to foster diversity in the industry.
The prolific designer has drawn on his training in engineering and architecture for a wide range of products, collaborating with LVMH-owned Rimowa on a line of see-through suitcases as well as champagne bottles for the group’s label Moet & Chandon.
He also introduced popular partnerships with brands such as Nike and Ikea.
Abloh first gained experience at the luxury group as an intern at LVMH-owned Fendi, alongside Kanye West, in 2009.
The Off-White brand is known for its luxury urban style, featuring hoodies that start at around 400 pounds ($543.64).
LVMH earlier this month took a minority stake in a new clothing and accessories label that is being launched by the former Celine designer Phoebe Philo under her own name.
($1 = 0.7358 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Silvia Aloisi and Jane Merriman)