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Louis Vuitton’s new designer provides evidence that athleisure is high fashion’s new frontier


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Photo: Instagram/@virgilabloh

For the past few years, designer brands have essentially been playing a high-stakes game of musical chairs: Riccardo Tisci left Givenchy and went to Burberry, Alber Elbaz was ousted from Lanvin, Alexander Wang was briefly at Balenciaga and then left—you get the picture. So news that the longtime artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones, was leaving the brand wasn’t exactly a shock to the system. But the fact that he’s being replaced by Off-White founder Virgil Abloh signals a new era in fashion.

Basically, Abloh is the king of fashionable athletic wear—so his presence at Louis Vuitton is a glaring indication that the burgeoning two-way relationship between activewear brands and high fashion will only continue to grow.

If you recognize Abloh’s name, it might be for seamlessly blending street-style athleisure with high fashion via Off-White (and for sending Naomi Campbell down the runway in Princess Diana–inspired bike shorts), for being Kanye West’s creative director, or for being a frequent Nike collaborator. Basically, Abloh is the king of fashionable athletic wear—so his presence at Louis Vuitton is a glaring indication that the burgeoning two-way relationship between activewear brands and high fashion will only continue to grow.

Abloh’s appointment is also monumental because he will be the first black artistic director at Louis Vuitton and one of the few in the fashion industry. Historically, fashion has a sordid relationship with race: It’s frequently appropriated black culture while somehow failing to be diverse and inclusive.

So aside from providing further evidence that the combination of street style, athleisure, and high fashion will ultimately become a monolith, Abloh’s new role is a sign of progress in the industry—and modern society, for that matter—that hopefully spreads into other fields.

Activewear has been taking over high fashion lately, as athleisure-centric street style and Chanel’s messy buns have proved.

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