Photo Credit: Robert Maxwell / GQ
Is Virgil Abloh to blame for lack of diversity? I don’t think so.
Virgil has recently been in the news for sharing a video of his design team which showcased many non-black faces and has been receiving a lot of mixed criticism about how to feel about supporting Off-White.
Lack of black working professionals in higher-paid positions especially in historically exclusive white spaces has been a huge creative disservice to many brands … especially in the last couple years. Let’s take a look at Swedish retailer H&M — the “coolest monkey in the jungle” fiasco. Poor marketing decision on H&M in regards to internationally but the mother of the child model who’s native to Sweden doesn’t think it’s racist. Prada‘s “dolls” and even Gucci‘s “balaclava jumper” were all poorly marketed items that resembles painful American past realities.
Virgil Abloh being in the position he’s in is a rarity. An extremely rare one. Virgil’s background afforded him the ability to present his creative executions to prominent Italian luxury designers like Marcelo Burlon who’s been integral to the success of Off-White due to the nature of his involvement. Off-White is front-manned by Virgil but belongs to a collective of brands entitled New Guards Group. Heron Preston, who’s black, has been a key part of the design team and inspiration behind Off-White who also has a label under NGG. Luka Sabbat has also been a part of an early blueprint within the brand’s aesthetic and identity.
In reality, Virgil is not the sole owner of his brand. It’s not a fluke that Off-White has international success. Virgil is a part of a system that was already set in place attached to an established system that uses the same grandfathered employers within the fashion industry. Virgil is still bringing his voice to the bigger picture and creating layers for future designers of color.
Virgil who’s also the very first African-American artistic director for Louis Vuitton was one of the very emotional people during his historic show which featured, for what the first time seemed like, a heavily diverse range of black models in his fashion show.
Criticising Virgil for “lack of diversity” based off a peek into what is a company that has 8 brands based out of Milan is not only not fair it’s unrealistic. Virgil is the only creative within the high-end fashion world actively finding ways to merge black culture into normalizing ideology behind how we dress.
RSVP Gallery is another Chicago-based establishment owned by Virgil that supports many black creatives and hires black models, cashiers, videographers and many more. The conversation around Virgil not having “enough black creatives” not only is unfair — it’s not true.
Terrell Johnson is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of SWGRUS.