It was announced on Monday, March 26 that Virgil Abloh has been named Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Unsurprisingly, the announcement was met with the usual excitement that comes with such news. Virgil Abloh, a Black man from Chicago, has made history by becoming the first ever Black man to hold his new position, that’s a big deal.
But why? Why is it that his success is viewed as such an anomaly that it had to be the biggest news of the day, and likely the week? It’s not as if Abloh isn’t deserving. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you have to admit that for over a year now his has been one of the most relevant names in fashion.
Even the simple fact that he’s a Black man should be seen as an advantage rather than a disadvantage when it comes to a career in fashion. However, despite all logic, we’ve convinced ourselves that the fashion industry isn’t a place for Black men to thrive. When you really think about it though, we’ve seen enough examples of successful Black men in fashion to have dispelled that myth long ago.
Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Dapper Dan, Virgil Abloh and even Kanye West (among others, of course) have shown that the fashion industry is, in fact, a place for Black men. It’s also worth noting that all of the Project Runway Allstars Season 6 finalists (Anthony Williams, Fabio Costa, Ken Laurence and Stanley Hudson) are Black/Brown men. Despite all of this, there’s still a lack of Black men in fashion.
“I believe there aren’t many Black males in the fashion industry because of the stigma that comes with being in the industry. We don’t allow ourselves to venture outside of the norm so we never do anything but normal shit. There also wasn’t any representation in the fashion industry for the longest times, and that’s by design,” says Javier Cousteau of the Cousteau House of Design.
The argument that the lack of Black men in fashion, and the subsequent lack of faith in Black men that are is due societal norms is one with some merit. Black men often do find themselves in boxes, surrounded by expectations of what they should and should not do. While that entire concept is ridiculous, fashion being in the “should not” category is particularly egregious.
There have been countless proclamations that Black people are the most stylish people in the world, and you’re delusional if you’re still not ready to admit that Black/Brown women living in the ghetto are the source of many fashion trends, yet there still seems to be a belief that there’s no for Black men in the industry.
So at this point, you have to ask yourself why. You have to wonder why we’re still shocked that Black men can do great work in fashion. You have to question why Virgil Abloh’s new position at Louis Vuitton is more noteworthy than any other fashion story of the day. Not because he doesn’t deserve the honor, but because he does.
Be the zeitgeist.