On Tuesday, the world’s most powerful luxury goods conglomerate announced it was giving a seat to one of fashion’s most prominent black designers and executives. LVMH becomes majority investor in Off-White, the high-end streetwear brand founded by Virgil Abloh in 2013 in Milan.
As part of the deal, LVMH purchases a controlling 60% stake in Off-White LLC, the owner of Abloh’s Off-White brand. Milan-based New Guards Group, which is owned by Farfetch, will continue to operate the business as it holds the license for the brand. Meanwhile, Abloh will retain a 40 percent stake and will also continue as creative director at Off-White, as well as at Louis Vuitton as artistic director of the French fashion house’s menswear collections.
Abloh’s relationship with LVMH dates back to 2007, when he did an internship at Fendi. At the time, Kanye West had hired Abloh as Creative Director to help him launch some projects outside of music. He founded Off-White in 2012 and three years later became a finalist for the LVMH Young Designers Prize. In 2018, he was appointed designer of Louis Vuitton men’s clothing.
LVMH and Abloh now agree to pursue new projects together. Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, said he was looking forward to “working with Virgil to bring his unique sensibility to a wider range of luxury categories” in a statement released Tuesday morning. And it makes sense that Abloh would be the guy to help with this business, given his many collaborations with brands like Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Ikea, Evian, Vitra, and Braun, to name a few.
In the grand scheme of things, taking a controlling stake in Off-White is just another day for LMVH. Last year, she bought Tiffany & Co.; last week he announced he was taking a minority stake in Phoebe Philo’s new namesake label; and according to WWD, it has strengthened its presence in experiential luxury by opening hotels and restaurants around the world.
Abloh told New York Time that “the partnership would be used to expand Off-White into categories such as cosmetics and housewares, as well as to develop the leather goods side of the business.” In a statement, he said, “For nearly a decade, we’ve built Off-White to be a brand designed to empower our generation and challenge the status quo. LVMH is bringing the extra firepower and scale needed to accelerate our momentum and make Off-White a true multi-line luxury brand. “
It is also a historic moment in the long white history of the fashion industry. Abloh is a first generation Ghanaian American, making Off-White one of the few properties of LVMH that is not rooted in European heritage. The French conglomerate touts its commitments to DE&I but still has an all-white board and executive committee; he interrupted Fenty, Rihanna’s luxury fashion brand, last year. While this is a step in the right direction, it is a reminder that great progress is still to be made.