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LVMH’s big bet on Virgil Abloh


Luxury conglomerates, including LVMH, have excelled at scaling heritage brands with significant marketing and global expansion, but have had a harder time building successful brands from scratch. Fenty, Rihanna’s fashion brand, backed by LVMH, was suspended indefinitely in February, while in 2005 LVMH divested Christian Lacroix, an Arnault brand founded in 1987. Now the company is betting that, with Abloh at orders, will take off thanks to its cultural relevance outside of luxury. The designer’s reach could extend beyond fashion into other categories of LVMH, including, potentially, hotels, champagnes, spirits, beauty, perfumes and jewelry.

Abloh has been widely hailed as leading the next generation of creative directors, and is a multi-trait talent, working as an artist, engineer and DJ in addition to fashion design. He pushed the boundaries of collaborations: Abloh, who has over 6 million followers on Instagram (over 10 million on the Off-White account), has partnered with brands from Evian to Ikea and Mercedes-Benz , representing the shift from luxury to cultural relevance. His close ties to hip-hop culture, including his stints with Kanye West, see Abloh personally referenced in hit songs by rappers like AJ Tracey and Dave, building his cachet with young buyers.

“This is an incredible new platform to take the disruption we’ve made together to a whole new level,” Abloh said. “I am also honored to use this partnership to deepen my long-standing commitment to expanding opportunities for diverse people and fostering greater equity and inclusion in the industries we serve. “

A modern-day Karl Lagerfeld

Given that LVMH has a wide reach in luxury hotels, champagne and fine wines, could a Hennessy collaboration be considered to sell cognac to a new client? This is not unlikely, analysts say, as its impact is likely to spill over into other areas of the business. Abloh has already designed a limited edition bottle for Moët & Chandon, while his protégé Samuel Ross has collaborated with the watch brand Hublot.

“Beyond fashion, LVMH could well turn to Abloh to breathe freshness into other assets, from hotels to perfumes and cosmetics to spirits,” said Erwan Rambourg, author of Future Luxury. “What Virgil Abloh infused into both [Off-White and Louis Vuitton] has a major halo effect. It’s about capturing the zeitgeist. [Abloh] is a modern day Karl Lagerfeld, with a similar Midas twist. That said, the scope of Abloh’s new role at LVMH is unclear and whether or not he will act as an advisor for new brands or be more active.