Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton men’s wear artistic director Virgil Abloh is responding to backlash over his response to the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests brought on by the police killing of George Floyd.
Abloh shared in the outrage last week, retweeting an image with the names of black people murdered by police, and posting a series of photos on his Instagram account encouraging followers to peacefully demand justice for Floyd. But things went south when Abloh condemned the lootings as it related to businesses in which he has a connection.
The New York Times pointed to Abloh’s Instagram stories—which have since expired—showing a photo of destroyed artwork and broken glass at the Fat Tiger Workshop in Chicago with the words “Our own communities, our own shops … this shop was built with blood sweat and tears.”
Abloh also took to a friend’s account to sound off. On Sunday, Sean Wotherspoon, owner of L.A-based vintage store Round Two, posted a video to his Instagram account showing the after-effects of the looting, which destroyed his store.
The New York Times pointed to Abloh’s now-deleted comment, which included a statement that the video “disgusts” him, and a message for those responsible: “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.”
Statements like Abloh’s—in which shame is placed on looters rather than on the murderers that sparked the outrage to begin with—are troubling to some throughout the nation who feel that years of peaceful protests have failed to spark change. Many of his Twitter and Instagram followers turned on him as a result, calling out a perceived betrayal of his community.
Following the initial backlash of his statements, Abloh posted a screenshot of a $50 donation to Miami art collective Fempower—which advanced the debate further, as many followers considered the move too minimal. However, Abloh later explained that the contribution was part of a social media chain of friends matching $50 donations to the organization, and that he’s actually donated more to individual campaigns.
On Monday, Abloh posted a statement on his social media accounts in which he addressed the criticism, apologized and offered some clarification. Many fans have since responded with messages of support.
“I apologize that my comments yesterday appeared as if my main concerns are anything other than full solidarity with the movements against police violence, racism and inequality,” he said, adding, “I apologize that it seemed like my concern for those [looted] stores outweighed my concern for our right to protest injustice and express our anger and rage in this moment.”
To date, Abloh has “donated $20,500 to bail funds and other causes related to this movement,” according to his statement, which called out his past projects that promote and support emerging black artists.
“Know that I am and have been doing the work, my prior projects are out there,” he said in the statement. “The future projects, I will continue to do.”