Issue of Virgil Abloh's successor at Louis Vuitton sets rumor mill turning
Just two weeks after the death of Virgil Abloh, who passed away after a battle with cancer on November 28, rumors already abound about who will succeed the American designer at Louis Vuitton. Quickest on the draw, the British press has indicated rapper and close friend of Abloh, Kanye West, as his potential heir at the head of the brand's menswear collections.
The speculative information was first published by The Sun, a tabloid better known for its scandal pieces than its coverage of the fashion industry, which claims that "the pair are said to have masterminded the move […] before Virgil’s death aged just 41." The newspaper further highlighted the strong friendship between Abloh and West, who met in 2009, when they were both undertaking fashion training at Fendi, another brand owned by French luxury conglomerate and Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH.
In the same year, West collaborated with Louis Vuitton on three sneaker designs, which proved to be wildly popular, breaking the barriers between streetwear and luxury fashion for the first time. Subsequently, the rapper and producer saw success with the launch of his own high-end streetwear label, Yeezy, in 2015.
However, West, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has something of a reputation for unpredictability, a quality which would seem to undermine the viability of any candidate for the role of creative director at an LVMH house, especially at Louis Vuitton, the group's historic flagship.
Another factor unlikely to count in West's favor is the fact that, this summer, he looked to be cozying up to LVMH's major competitor, Kering. The rapper was seen at the runways of Kering-owned Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, and, perhaps most notably of all, entrusted the creative direction of the event celebrating the launch of his latest album, Donda, to Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia.
If the appointment of West at Louis Vuitton seems doubtful, LVMH must nonetheless tackle the issue of this difficult succession quickly. What's more, the luxury group led by Bernard Arnault will not only have to find a successor for Abloh at the head of Louis Vuitton's menswear collections, but will also need to find someone to lead the designer's own brand, Off-White, in which LVMH acquired a 60% stake in July. In both cases, the most likely scenario would seem to be the appointment of an in-house designer as a temporary solution.
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