In his 41 years on this Earth, fashion designer and entrepreneur Virgil Abloh left a mark that will go down in history. As the founder and creative director of Off-White and the first Black menswear artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Abloh’s genius knew celebration and reverence in the fashion industry. His death left a void in the world of fashion, but the show must go on.
Upon his untimely passing, there was wonder about what would happen with his brand Off-White. There was speculation the brand would potentially shut down. On the other hand, there was also the theory that a collective group of creatives would lead the brand. Whoever would step up to take Abloh’s Off-White mantle was going to have some awfully big designer shoes to fill.
Enter Ibrahim Kamara. The fashion director and stylist, who is currently editor-in-chief of Dazed, has joined a team overseeing the creative direction of Off-White in the role of art and image director. Kamara was a close work confident of Abloh, having styled shows for both Off-White and Louis Vuitton. He’s no stranger to Abloh’s artistic vision and is a fitting candidate to take on his former colleague’s legacy.
New Guards Group, which operates Off-White, has been formatting a plan to continue growing the brand to carry on Abloh’s legacy. Abloh left behind a sort of “pipeline” of ideas that could carry the brand on for many seasons to come.
Off-White is still selling very well in department stores like Selfridges and on e-commerce channels, like investor Farfetch. Virgil Abloh was Off-White though. What does one do with a brand so closely associated with one person? Customers still think of Virgil Abloh when they shop Off-White, and dissociating from that is difficult.
History will show it’s not an impossible task to carry on a luxury brand once its creative director has passed. Chanel is one of the most recognizable luxury brands in the world, and this is decades after the passing of its founder, the legendary Coco Chanel. The same goes for brands, including Dior and Balmain.
The big picture answer to carrying on Abloh’s legacy lies in taking a collective approach to design. Abloh was constantly working on new ideas, in addition to working as an in-demand DJ. Therefore, this left much of the work left to his senior team, where Abloh would provide final approval and direction. Abloh was quite hands-off, although he triumphantly captained his ship.
Karl Lagerfeld (may he R.I.P.) would become Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Kim Jones are now Dior, and Olivier Rousteing is Balmain. For a brand as young as Off-White, its consumers will still associate the brand with Virgil Abloh. Rather than try and get a new figurehead to replace him, the collective design approach he put in place would be best left untouched.
Head designers for each category, including women's, men's, shoes, bags, knitwear, and jewelry, have been making creative decisions since his death. Many of these people worked with Abloh for over half a decade. Given the positive response to Abloh's collections since his death, if it's not broken, don't fix it.
A collective approach to design might sound difficult to build cohesiveness, but it has worked so far. If these design leads understand Abloh’s artistic eye and legacy, not a note will be out of place. The best approach for the brand appears to be their collective design model because, after all, there will only ever be one Virgil Abloh. New Guards Group has found a strategy to keep the brand alive, and in the face of their unfortunate loss, it appears to be working.