In this op-ed, social media editor Callia Hargrove explores her feelings after watching Virgil Abloh's first show as the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, and what this moment means for the future of diversity in fashion.
It's easy for us all to sit here and say that representation matters, but the true impact wasn't apparent to me until I saw it. On 21 June, I found myself scrolling through Instagram, taking in Virgil Abloh’s debut for Louis Vuitton and sobbing. As the first black designer to helm a major design house, the moment undoubtedly carried a lot of weight, but I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would feel to watch the show.
An image of Kanye West and Virgil Abloh hugging on the red carpet particularly struck me. There they were, two black men from Chicago, embracing at a show for one of the industry’s most historically white fashion houses. Kanye helped Virgil get to where he is, and when Virgil ran to find Kanye in the crowd, I felt it in my heart. Their hug was full of not only emotion but gratitude. Each has helped the other, and watching them share in this “we made it” moment in such a public forum was incredibly powerful.
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Teen Vogue columnist echoed my feelings. “Seeing Kanye and Virgil — two black men from Chicago who have defied all odds in their respective fields — crying and hugging out of celebration at the end of Virgil’s monumental debut LV show was nothing short of beautiful and historic.”
When I saw the rest of the images from the show, I lost it. The event could only be defined as what I like to call “blackety black.” Virgil made sure the space reflected his background, from the guests (hi, Rihanna, and A$AP Rocky!) to the runway, which featured hip-hop greats like Kid Cudi and Playboi Carti. So many of the people who helped him along the way were able to join in on the experience, and for many it was the first time they’ve been embraced in such a space.
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Vogue asked Virgil to reflect on the collection and its significance, : “I want a young generation to know, hey, there’s someone here who’s listening.” With this show, he achieved just that. Fashion has a longstanding problem with racism, and with his Louis Vuitton debut Virgil broke down barriers, giving hope to a whole community of black boys who may have never been able to imagine reaching that level of success in an industry that continuously borrows from their culture without giving anything back.
Virgil Abloh is, no doubt, a controversial designer, but no one can argue that this show isn’t a historic moment for the fashion industry. The goal of many black professionals in the fashion industry is to make it better for the people who will follow us, and this show convinced me that the future is bright for our people. I can’t wait to see what more Virgil Ablohs in the making are able to create because they saw themselves represented in such a prestigious setting.