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How Louis Vuitton’s New Hire May (Casually) Disrupt the Luxury Fashion Industry

At first glance, it sounds (and looks) like reverse disruption.

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BY Tom Popomaronis - 04 Apr 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

What comes to mind when you think of high fashion? Thousand-dollar suits? Luxury handbags? Designer button-up shirts? How about t-shirts and hoodies? Louis Vuitton has become famous for its luxury items that are synonymous with wealth. These items, like those infamous red bottom shoes, act as a status symbol for people to display their affluence.

However, the company looks like it's taking a significant shift. Louis Vuitton recently hired Virgil Abloh as its Men's Artistic Director. Abloh is famous for founding a streetwear label called Off-White, has designed shoes for Nike, and was Kanye West's creative director.

"I think of it as the ultimate collaboration," he told the New York Times.

A Fashionable Shift?

Perhaps this collaboration shouldn't come as a surprise as Abloh was the one who helped connect Louis Vuitton with the skatewear brand Supreme. It was an unusual combination but created a lot of hype for fans of either company. Who would've expected that the Louis Vuitton logo would appear on baseball caps and bandanas?

Louis Vuitton's move is historic for many reasons. First, Abloh is almost one of the few prominent black fashion designers. Second, Abloh's background in streetwear means that he may be taking the luxury brand in a new direction.

You'd be mistaken if you thought that streetwear couldn't command high prices. After all, Kanye West's $120 plain white t-shirt sold out instantly. Abhol didn't create the shirt, but he's had a hand in designing many of Kanye's album covers.

Look at one of Off-White's most popular products: a yellow nylon belt fetching a handsome 149 (about $184.80). It looks like something you might buy at Home Depot, not at a luxury clothing website. However, this nifty item has caught the eyes of stylists and fashionistas everywhere.

Price Point? What Price Point?

A quick browse through Off-White's online store will find a variety of jackets, sweaters, and hoodies. Many items contain the brand's signature black-and-white diagonal stripes or an image of Mona Lisa - all at a price of $580 or more.

Customers want clothing that will make them stand out in a crowd. They're prioritizing uniqueness over craftsmanship. And they're willing to pay top dollar for clothes that fit their needs.

Other high-end fashion brands are embracing the shift as well. Companies like Gucci and Balenciaga have started selling logo t-shirts, sock sneakers, and other seemingly casual clothes - at a high price, of course.

"This opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams," Abloh said.

It's unknown exactly how Abloh will put his design skills to use. Should we expect some Louis Vuitton-branded zip-up hoodies in the near future? What we do know is that this bold move will change how we see luxury fashion for years to come... one hoodie at a time.

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