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In Bigger LVMH Role, Virgil Abloh to Launch New Brands, Foster Inclusion

One of fashion’s busiest A-listers appears to be shifting his day-to-day responsibilities in a big way. Virgil Abloh is selling a 60 percent stake in Off-White LLC, the trademark owner of his Off-White brand, to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as he takes on a larger role at the French luxury fashion giant.

The 40-year-old fashion designer will retain a 40 percent stake in the brand he founded in 2013. He will continue as its creative director while still serving as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection.

LVMH did not disclose financial terms of the acquisition.

“For nearly a decade, we’ve been building Off-White to be a brand designed to empower our generation and challenge the status quo,” Abloh said in a statement. “LVMH brings to the table the additional firepower and scale to accelerate our momentum and evolve Off-White into a truly multi-line luxury brand.”

Abloh, whose star power evolved from early collaborations with hip-hop star Kanye West to a mainstream influence on streetwear, also said he would use this partnership to deepen a “longstanding commitment to expand opportunities for diverse individuals and foster greater equity and inclusion in the industries we serve. This is an incredible new platform to take the disruption we’ve achieved together to a whole new level.”

Although LVMH was tight-lipped on details, both parties now are working together to launch new brands and partner with existing ones in sectors outside of fashion. Initial discussions have already begun, although no brands have been named.

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The partnership comes as luxury and the fashion industry at large are trying to level the playing field to encourage the hiring of more Black artists, designers and creators.

Abloh is perhaps the most prominent Black executive in luxury fashion, and among a select few, alongside Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, who head a European fashion house.

LVMH has sought to capture a more diverse set of customers as well, recently purchasing a 50 percent stake in Jay Z’s Champagne Armand de Brignac. Through the L Catterton private equity fund backed by LVMH founder Bernard Arnault, the fashion house has invested $115 million in Rihanna’s size-inclusive Savage X Fenty intimates brand and acquired Birkenstock for $4.85 billion.

Currently, LVMH’s executive committee includes 13 members, all of whom are white and only two of whom are women.

“We are thrilled to expand our successful partnership with Virgil. We have already had the privilege of witnessing Virgil’s exceptional creativity and vision through his work with us at Louis Vuitton,” said Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, in a statement. “We look forward to supporting Virgil and the team both in driving the growth of Off-White and in working together with Virgil to bring his unique sensibility to a broader range of luxury categories.”

The Off-White brand has gained significant cultural relevance over the years, with releases including hoodies, bags and sneakers, and has further developed popularity through its collaborations with brands including Nike, Jimmy Choo and IKEA.

Under Louis Vuitton, Abloh relaunched the Nike Air Force 1 to include design details like the fashion house’s trademark “LV” monogram. Abloh is known for stretching outside of his comfort zone as well, recently partnering with Swiss design company Vitra to launch an exclusive collection of minimalist furniture.

Although LVMH will take possession of the Off-White trademarks, the label will continue its licensing agreement with Farfetch-owned New Guards Group.

“From groundbreaking fashion shows to the creation of a new contemporary men’s fashion language, Virgil has made a lasting imprint on the House of Louis Vuitton,” Michael Burke, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, said in a statement. “By breaking down borders and proclaiming a profoundly inclusive philosophy, Virgil has extended the reach of Louis Vuitton’s luxury world. We are proud of the road traveled so far and very excited for the new ones opening up.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed within the next 60 days.

Earlier in July, LVMH took a minority stake in the new Phoebe Philo brand. Philo was a creative designer at LVMH-owned Celine until 2018.