Do We Accept It Or Is It Too Late? Virgil Abloh Apologizes After Criticism Over Looting Comments
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES — Virgil Abloh is receiving a lot of criticism over looting comments and he also received backlash about his $50 donation to help bail out protesters.
Where do I even begin? I have a lot to say but should I say it or should I keep my personal opinion to myself and play by the industry “rules” because I want to have a front-row seat at the Off-White show and Louis Vuitton menswear show at Paris Fashion Week?
One thing for sure, I am not going to sit quietly and not say anything at all, and two things for certain, I am going to stand by my people because BLACK LIVES MATTER!
As I sit at my desk in my South Orange, New Jersey apartment, I’ve decided to write from my heart and share with you guys how I truly feel at the moment. The past few days have been very stressful, nervous, and worried. My anxiety started acting up and I just kept shaking, asking myself “Am I next” as I laid down in my bed. “Am I next,” as in the next Black man (person) to be killed by racist White cops or just a racist White person in general. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee are just a few of the names of Black victims who were killed either by the police or White men while jogging recently.
Off-White‘s founder and Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director has issued an apology on social media after coming under fire online for comments about looters and a $50 donation he made to a bail fund.
The controversy began after the designer posted a comment on Sean Wotherspoon’s Instagram account under footage of the looted vintage sneaker store Round Two in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles outpost of RSVP Gallery, the concept store originally founded in Chicago by Abloh and Don Crawley, was also looted over the weekend.
“This is f**ed up. You see the passion blood sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me. To the kids that ransacked his store and RSVP DTLA, and all our stores in our scene just know, that product staring at you in your home/apartment right now is tainted and a reminder of a person I hope you aren’t,” Abloh wrote.
“When you walk past him in the future please have the dignity to not look him in the eye, hang your head in shame,” he added.
My issue with Abloh is that he did not have a problem speaking about people looting and his stores and stores of friends being broken into, but he did have an issue speaking out against police brutality and the death of George Floyd. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white American Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd‘s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; according to the criminal complaint against Chauvin, 2 minutes and 53 seconds of that time occurred after Floyd became unresponsive.
To me, it seemed like Abloh was more concerned with the stores being broken into then the reason behind the protests across the states and around the globe.
If it were not for the criticism and backlash, I highly doubt if Abloh would’ve issued an apology.
Why should it have to take for people to criticize someone in order for them to do what’s right and issue an apology? If this would’ve been swept under the rug, Abloh probably never would have written a lengthy post on Instagram.
In his post, he spoke about his experience as a black man in the United States and reaffirmed his solidarity with the protests in the U.S. against police violence, racism, and inequality.
“Yesterday I spoke out about how my stores and stores of friends were looted. I apologize that it seemed like my concern for those stores outweighed my concern for our right to protest injustice and express our anger and rage in this moment,” said the seven-page note published on Instagram and Twitter.
“I also joined a social media chain of friends who were matching $50 donations. I apologize that appeared to some as if that was my only donation to these important causes,” he added. “As many have said, buildings are brick and mortar and material things can be replaced, people can’t. Black lives matter. In this moment, those other things don’t.”
Abloh came under fire after posting a receipt for a $50 donation to Fempower, a Miami-based artist collective that is raising funds to bail black women out of jail. Some commenters called the donation paltry when compared with the price of Off-White clothing.
In his subsequent statement, Abloh said that he has in fact donated $20,500 to bail funds and other causes related to the movement which started after the police killing of Floyd, on May 25.
“I will continue to donate more and will continue to use my voice to urge my peers to do the same,” he said. Abloh went on to list his initiatives to create opportunities for young people, including a platform titled “Community Service” that supports emerging black artists and designers with financial support and mentoring.
His upcoming projects include items where all proceeds support bail funds for protesters; a new art publication focused on the voices and work of black artists and writers, and a roundtable of other black leaders in creative industries.
“I want people to know that I am participating in his movement, from A-Z. Personally donating, being vocal not silent, addressing how my communitie within design and global streetwear can help to end racism,” Abloh said.
Virgil‘s statements alone are cringeworthy and if he’s disgusted by the looting, then I am beyond disgusted that he worried about material items more than the black lives lost to senseless racism and police brutality. He has a major platform and should use it and his voice to bring change, fight for equality, to end police equality and racism, especially in the fashion industry.
This isn’t the first time D.M. Fashion Book called out Abloh. In March 2016, we published an article, titled “Virgil Abloh’s Off White Fall 2016 Show At Paris Fashion Week Lacked Black Models; I Will No Longer Cover His Brand” (see it here). The show only featured two Black models out of a total of 31 looks.
October 2015, he was also called out by Fashion Bomb Daily for the lack of diversity at his Off-White Spring 2016 show at Paris Fashion Week (see it here).
He earned by support again once he started using more models of color in his shows. It also brought me so much joy when LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced the Off-White designer to lead men’s design at the Louis Vuitton (see it here). He became Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house. Olivier Rousteing is the creative director of Balmain, and Ozwald Boateng, from Britain, was the designer for Givenchy menswear from 2003 to 2007. In (May 2019), LVMH confirmed a luxury label with Rihanna, under the Fenty banner (see it here). She became the first woman to create an original brand at LVMH, the first woman of color at the top of a LVMH maison, and her line was the first new house created by the group since Christian Lacroix in 1987.
Bernard Arnault believed in a man of color from Chicago (one of the most dangerous cities in America) when he hired Abloh as Vuitton‘s menswear artistic director. I cried tears of joy and was so excited for Abloh because this was proof that nothing is impossible.
The fashion industry is so visible and influential and powerful — it is Virgil’s and other powerful people’s human duty to speak out against these atrocities against the black community and in America today.
Abloh launched Off-White online in late 2013. The brand held its first showroom presentation in Paris the following January with designs that merged influences ranging from Bauhaus to sports apparel and Caravaggio. It established the brand signifier: thick diagonal stripes that have become a byword for insider cool. Eighteen months later, Abloh expanded into womenswear and staged his first runway show.
The brand made it onto the shortlist of the 2015 edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, crystallizing the advent of streetwear as a credible challenger to the luxury status quo, and cementing close ties to the French luxury group. Abloh becomes the first finalist of the prize to snag a major design post within the group.
Trained as a civil engineer and architect, he rose to prominence as a DJ, cofounder of concept store RSVP Gallery in his hometown of Chicago, and creative director for West. He made his fashion debut in 2012 with the launch of Pyrex Vision, a short-lived label that spawned a following among streetwear aficionados.
Off-White won the Urban Luxe award at the British Fashion Awards, and Abloh was named International Designer of the Year at last year’s GQ Men of the Year Awards.
Off-White used to belong to New Guards Group, the Milan-based company that produces and distributes Marcelo Burlon County of Milan, Palm Angels, Unravel and United Standard. In August 2019, online fashion retailer Farfetch made an acquisition, picking up brand platform New Guards, which is the licensee of Virgil Abloh‘s Off-White, for $675 million (see it here).
Even though Abloh issued an apology, I think it was a bit too late. Bad timing and his comments were tasteless.
Photos Credit: Courtesy