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LVMH expands Virgil Abloh’s role beyond fashion – Headline 4 Ever

PARIS – In a big expression of trust, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton strengthens its relationship with Virgil Abloh with an agreement that gives the designer leeway to launch brands and seal partnerships across the full range of luxury conglomerate activities beyond just the fashion division.

As part of the agreement, LVMH raises its stake in Off-White LLC, the trademark owner of Abloh’s Off-White brand, to 60 percent. Abloh retains a 40 percent interest and continues as creative director of the label, which he founded in 2014. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Italian holding company New Guards Group remains the licensee of Off-White. Meanwhile, Abloh remains artistic director of men’s clothing collections at Louis Vuitton, a position he has held since March 2018, both parties said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, said the group was “excited” to expand its partnership with the 40-year-old American designer, known for its extensive collaboration with brands including Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Evian, Ikea, Vitra and Braun, among others.

“We look forward to supporting Virgil and the team both in driving the growth of Off-White and in working with Virgil to bring his unique sensitivity to a wider range of luxury categories,” Arnault said in the statement.

After proving to be one of the winners of the coronavirus pandemic in the luxury segment, LVMH is eager to leverage the momentum to anticipate changes in consumer tastes and behaviors. Shares in the group, which are expected to release results for the second quarter on July 26th, has risen 28 percent so far this year.

Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh
Image courtesy of The Royal College of Art

In a joint interview with Headline 4 Ever, Abloh and Michael Burke, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton, said Tuesday’s deal marked a new type of relationship between a creative director and a conglomerate like LVMH, which owns 75 brands ranging from Vuitton and Dior to beauty retailer. Sephora, jeweler Tiffany & Co. and Hennessy cognac.

“I am completely honored. There is a long line of creative instructors working with a house, but this is something completely new, and I commend Mr Arnault and Michael Burke for seeing my talent across the spectrum and incubating myself into a place where I can suggest different things that do not fall within a runway show, ”said Abloh.

“There are areas within the spirits side of the business that are attractive to me; there are areas within the hospitality, hotel side; jewelry – you know, more detailed in the fashion segment. My eyes have always been wide in terms of fashion, art and culture and how they can blend together. So the announcement leans on the fact that there is now an opportunity to grow new segments and take root in the LVMH group, ”he added.

Burke said the new venture would start when LVMH’s investment in Off-White clears regulatory barriers, a process that is expected to be completed within 60 days. But he was wise to lift the lid on any further details.

“It is not as if LVMH plays a standard role, or Virgil plays a standard scripted role. We both go into this knowing that we will invent new business models as we go. It will depend on the industry, the product, what exists, what still needs to be invented, so we do not go into it with a cookie-cutter recipe, ”he said.

“We have many old-fashioned companies at LVMH, and they are very successful. But one day, most of them will recycle into something completely different, and we do not know what it is. But we certainly know that sparks will happen by putting extremely creative talent of extreme descent, ”added the CEO.

Burke noted that his relationship with Abloh dates back to his days as CEO of Fendi, when the designer joined Kanye West on an internship at the Roman House.

“We turned it off immediately,” Burke said. “From the first day, it was clear that we should work together and that it should gradually become a deeper and deeper relationship. Things definitely fell into place here at Louis Vuitton with menswear. The results are in and they are very, very good and therefore it is a good time to expand it. ”

The strategy comes as LVMH deepens its foothold in experiential luxury – with the recent opening of a Cipriani restaurant in Saint-Tropez and a Cheval Blanc hotel to be bent in Paris in September – and luxury brands such as Vuitton expanding their partnerships into worlds of sport , music and games.

“We are in a moment where the opportunities are just huge because the different areas in which LVMH and Virgil are involved are becoming limitless,” Burke said. “We have taken all these great sociological moments in our lives and we weave them together. It has not happened before. So I would not try to describe it because we have to invent it as we go. ”

Abloh said the deal also allows him to envision a long-term future for Off-White, which has grown the brand “from a screen-printed T-shirt to now having stores around the world. I want to see it become a generational brand. So without hesitation and with due care on my part, Michael and I devised the scenario for these devices to come under an umbrella that we can see in the years to come. ”

While Burke confirmed that LVMH previously had a minority stake in Off-White’s trademark unit, he declined to say when the investment was made and how large the stake was. Headline 4 Ever reported in 2019 that LVMH was also considering an investment in the New Guards Group, although this was never confirmed. The Milan – based holding company was sold to Farfetch in 2019 for $ 675 million.

Burke signaled his confidence in Off-White’s operating partner.

Virgil brought us new guards. We are absolutely delighted and at times positively surprised at how they have taken Virgil’s brand then and then made it a very, very successful business. There are very, very few who have achieved what they have achieved. So we would not make this deal if we thought that the first thing we needed was to change a key partner, ”he said.

“Andrea Grilli and Davide De Giglio, my partners at the start of Off-White, they promoted this exact vision so that it could move on to this step, so they are an integral part of the team that is Off-White, “joined Abloh.

Off-White operates 56 stand-alone stores worldwide, and more are on the way. In Paris, the brand recently opened a flagship at the intersection of Rue de Castiglione and Rue du Mont Thabor, which includes a café run by the Japanese boutique coffee company% Arabica.

Burke declined to specify the duration of Abloh’s contract at Vuitton, but from the sound of it, the designer does not have to hunt for another job soon.

“He has shown that he has the pulse of the fashion world, but he is also very design-driven. In other words, he has a very long-term view of beauty and the design of beauty. So the time is right now to do things on a different level within LVMH, ”said the executive.

Abloh, who last year raised $ 1 million for a scholarship fund for students in black fashion, said he was committed to keeping the door open for diverse talent. “Today marks just a day where I get a seat at the table so we can do more and not be limited by the past,” he concluded.

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