💸 What Virgil Abloh's net worth says about the American Dream
PLUS: Balenciaga, Fortnite & UNIQLO drops
Welcome to issue #043. You've heard of the luxury streetwear phenom. Abloh has pioneered some serious trends over the last 10 years. But what's the American fashion designer's story? How did he create Off-White? More importantly, how did he land the coveted position as artistic director of Louis Vuitton AND become one of the 100 most influential people in the world?
Don't worry, I got the story for you after the jump. And it's not your typical rags to riches tale. It really defines the true American dream.
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Virgil Abloh’s net worth and the American dream
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Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian immigrant parents. He would grow up in a hard-working household; his mother was a seamstress while his father managed a successful paint company.
Abloh was no joke as a student. He would meet his wife Shannon Sundberg at Boylan Catholic High School, with a serious interest in an engineering career. That would take him to undergrad at The University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 leaving with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. He would later receive his Masters of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. While he was in attendance at IIT, there was a building being constructed by the architect Rem Koolhaas which would spark his interest to enter the fashion industry. While studying, he would begin designing t-shirts and write on fashion and design for what became a well-known blog called The Brilliance. Then he would meet rapper Kanye West while working on designs in a small local Chicago print shop.
Following graduation, Abloh would intern at Fendi in Rome, Italy. He would be in the same class as Kanye West, where they would begin a collaborative relationship. He would later launch his first retail store, called the RSVP Gallery, which was located in Chicago. The store would represent a mix of architectural design and fashion apparel... showing the serious range of Abloh.
West would begin to love Abloh's work so much that he appointed him as the creative director of Kanye's creative agency, DONDA (which shares the same name as his 2021 album release). He would then serve as the artistic director in 2011 for the Jay-Z/West collab Watch the Throne. He would venture into his first real business in 2021, called Pyrex Vision. It was a simple concept, where Abloh would buy deadstock from Ralph Lauren and screen print designs and sell them from prices upward of $550. He later closed the business down, because he didn't want to commercialize it. It was looked at as more of an artistic experiment.
THE BEGINNING OF OFF-WHITE
Abloh really began to take off when he established his first fashion house with the high-end streetwear brand Off-White, with a designed logo inspired by British designer Ben Kelly. Basing the brand in Milan, he would tap New Guards Group, who's helped other designer brands like Palm Angels and Heron Preston, to initiate the launch of his brand. The menswear line's widespread attention began in Paris, later expanding into China, Tokyo, and eventually the US.
Launching the company's first women's line in 2014, it would be showcased at Paris Fashion Week. He would be selected as the finalist for the LVMH Prize but would lose to Marques'Almeida by Jacquemus.
Abloh would launch his first legit concept store in Tokyo, where he would debut the company's furniture vertical, called Grey Area.
In 2017, Abloh would be asked to partner with Nike and a complete redesign of the company's best-selling shoes, called "The Ten." He established a self-made rule where he would only edit 3% of the design to maintain the best seller's originality.
Abloh would also partner up with IKEA to design furniture and tote bags. The collection was called Markerad, which is Swedish for "clear-cut; crips; pronounced," which was released in 2019. He would work on designs for chairs, coffee tables, beds, storage cabinets, mirrors, and carpets as a part of the collab.
It wouldn't stop there... he would also partner with Planned Parenthood for a t-shirt design in response to the Women's March on Washington.
A LITTLE CONTROVERSY
Naturally, Abloh's uprising is not without controversy. Remember his 3% principal? Well, that philosophy has caused people to accuse Abloh of plagiarism. But he described his approach as "ironic detachment" and credit's the famous French creative Marcel Duchamp, who established a precedent that "gives him the grounds to copy and paste, to take and to re-apply."
LOUIS V AND TODAY
In 2018, Abloh had a milestone moment when he was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear ready-to-wear line. It officially made him the first African to lead the brand's menswear line.
He would debut his first attempt at the 2018 Men's Fashion Week at the Palais-Royal gardens in Paris. Rihanna was the first to wear Abloh, followed by Playboi Carti and Kid Cudi who walked for the fashion show.
In 2019, he'd be appointed to the board of directors for The Council of Fashion Designers of America. But his shining moment would come in July 2021, where LVMH announced it would be taking a 60% stake in Off-White, while Abloh would be appointed creative director of menswear and still retaining 40% of the brand.
It's said that Virgil Abloh's net worth makes him a $100 million dollar man. With someone like myself who comes from two immigrant parents, stories like this instill confidence that the American Dream is thriving. But it's not just about the money. It's about creating and imprinting on people's lives. It's about the blood, sweat, and tears to get there. The failures, being a good person, the milestones... all of it.
That's the REAL American Dream.
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See you next Friday,
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