The two designers are already familiar faces at the French luxury conglomerate, but their new positions give them increased autonomy in the industry.

By Emily Jensen.

With an annual revenue of €44.7 billion and dozens of luxury fashion, jewelry, cosmetics brands under its belt, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is certainly not lacking in power or prestige in the fashion industry. But to remain its top seed in the luxury sphere, the French conglomerate must constantly seek new prospects and innovations. This month, the owner of brands such as Dior and Louis Vuitton welcomed two seismic figures in the fashion industry into greater positions of power in the LVMH sphere: Phoebe Philo and Virgil Abloh.

That Philo and Abloh would further align themselves with LVMH doesn’t come as a surprise given their deep ties to the company, but news indicates the two designers are now assuming greater autonomy than they’ve previously held. It is a chance too for LVMH to put women and designers of color in positions of power, representation of which is sorely lacking at the top levels in the group.

Abloh, already the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear since 2018, will now have a greater seat of power at LVMH as the company has purchased a majority stake in Off-White, the brand he founded in 2014 and where he still acts as CEO and creative director. Philo, meanwhile, will return to LVMH to launch her own label, having previously served as creative director of the LVMH-owned brand Celine, now led by Hedi Slimane.

And Abloh will do far more than simply receive financial backing for his own brand. As Business of Fashion reported, the designer will also play a greater role at LVMH in fostering new talent and growing existing brands in the LVMH portfolio, not simply in fashion and leather goods but also in its wine and spirits and hospitality sectors. As a frequent collaborator with everything from Ikea to Moët & Chandon, Abloh is no stranger to putting his stamp on all types of product.

The announcement of Philo’s departure from Celine in 2017 left many wondering where the designer would land next. But rather than join another heritage label, the acclaimed designer has finally decided to launch a namesake brand, Phoebe Philo Studios, with backing from LVMH. But Philo will retain a majority stake in her own label, keeping the brand both creatively and financially under her own control.

As the owner of European brands that date back to the 19th century, LVMH and other luxury companies are slowly recognizing the need to diversify their power structures to appeal to today’s consumers. LVMH’s chief rival, Kering, which owns brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, recently announced a partnership with Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean-Raymond to support emerging talent. Titled “Your Friends In New York,” the new platform will “merge fashion, music, art, philanthropy and wellness to form an eco-system of creativity that reimagines how consumers discover and interact with brands, including Jean-Raymond’s own brand, Pyer Moss.” Pyer Moss, which staged its first couture show this month, remains independent of the Kering sphere, however. Earlier this year, the beauty giant Estée Lauder, which owns brands such as Clinique and Le Labo, announced a new division to meet diversity pledges.

The news is a departure from LVMH’s most recent high profile decisions that have kept white male designers at the head of its most important brands. In 2020, LVMH ceased operations of Rihanna’s Fenty label, its first and only luxury fashion label helmed by a woman of color (LVMH still owns the singer’s successful cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty), and appointed Kim Jones to lead Fendi’s womenswear as well as Matthew Williams to Givenchy. Given Philo and Abloh’s dedicated consumer bases, their respective deals are not exactly risky bets for LVMH, but are slight shifts in the makeup of the major power players in the fashion industry.

Image credit: Louis Vuitton