“Virgil Abloh’s Social Media Rise to Success”
Virgil Abloh’s social media presence is making history in the fashion world. The multifaceted creator came onto the scene as Kanye West’s creative director and garnered much attention. He used this success to gather a team and raise capital to fulfil his dream of having his own brand and his own legacy. His premiere brand, Off-white, founded in 2013, began to expand quickly and by 2015 he had boutiques from LA to London. Virgil Abloh is a creative genius. Taking, perhaps, an unconventional path to get there. He studied civil engineering, and architecture. Fortunately for us, he turned his otherworldly talents to fashion. After the success of his brand Off-white, he developed a homeware collection with Ikea, collaborated with famous designers such as Nike, Moncler, coach among others, and recently accepted the role as creative director for Louis Vuitton. His meteoric ascent in the fashion world has been in large part fuelled by his ability to focus his genius on social media. This man mines his analytics and talks directly to the “Tumblr generation”. He is inspiring creators for the next generation.
Virgil Abloh is a visual marketing God. According to Instagram Data, there are around 800 million Instagram users, and fashion is the third most followed type of account. Virgil Abloh does not have the most followers, but more importantly, he is a designer with one of the most-engaged followers which means more people are liking and commenting on his Instagram. So even though Kendall Jenner has about 80 million more followers than Virgil Abloh, his 4 million followers are very involved and absorbing his content. There is a stronger connection. Instagram research also provides evidence that users younger than 25, us millennials, spend on average more than 32 minutes a day on Instagram. Virgil understands the relevance of social media. He is tuned into our generation and posts creative content that catches our attention so that he gets noticed and attended to during our hours of scrolling. One of the many reasons why he is booming with success is because before starting his creative process, he set a vision and stood by it. Virgil capitalizes on the “Tumblr generation;” teenagers who have the opportunity to use the internet to gain their knowledge about fashion. They can look through every collection of every designer and view every creative aspect of every brand. Social media has changed the way we viewed fashion online and made it easier to figure out. Virgil Abloh is trying to alter the fashion industry to fit with the new standards that millennials expect from it. Even if millennials were not able to afford the clothing, they were able to take inspiration from examining their favourite brands. Virgil Abloh and his brand succeed in speaking their language, making him their top inspiration.
Virgil Abloh works in a different environment than most, but that is what makes him unique. He doesn’t have a desk, or office, or his own building for that matter. The one place he is the most is on a plane. And for his desk? That would be his phone. His legacy and his best work are made through his presence on social media. He has a mindset of a millennial so he is able to attract them. His phone is his primary tool, that’s how he works. He is an engineer so he has a facility with technology. He thinks and creates on his phone, so he knows how to use it the way we do. It’s even been said that he has an addiction. Virgil Abloh is changing the game for fashion. He is aspiring to modernize the fashion industry, to relate to the current consumers that live in a world of social media and he is succeeding. The fashion industry is evolving as technology progresses, and he feels if we resort to traditional ways of creating fashion, the industry won’t be able to keep up.
Virgil Abloh’s brand Off-White has 3.3 million followers, while his personal account has 2 million. Many designers can only wish to have this many followers. For example, the famous luxury brand, Céline, only has 1.1 million. The reason why his brand is increasingly more successful than the traditional fashion houses, is because he is the first designer to use social media as an advantage, in particular, Instagram. Let’s face it, his clothes are nice, but I don’t think the quality of the materials necessarily justify the cost. I don’t think my dad would look at his shorts and say those are worth 900 dollars. But any millennial would, and that’s because of the influence of Virgil’s social media prowess as well as his ability to both capture and set what is cool at the moment. Virgil Abloh uses all aspects of social media by both posting images and interacting with individuals. This approach is unlike most brands, who have trouble connecting personally with their clients. Instead of posting conventional fashion photographs, he connects with his fans on a more visceral level. He posts pictures of skateboarding and uses other non-fashion related images, to involve everyone in his creative process. As an example, instead of following tradition and allowing fashion week organizers to publicly showcase that his line will be shown by posting it on the website where you can buy tickets, he personally announced his 2018 fashion show on his own Instagram feed/account. Along with the post he stated, “The address AND time are here for all the kids to come, very inclusive, not really exclusive.” That show was filled with millennials. Celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Luke Sabbat, were excited to walk the runway while those in the crowd were ready to be inspired.
Virgil Abloh once described the importance of Instagram in his booming success as a creator and a brand. He explained how his Instagram was a way to showcase his journey, and he wanted to differ from the standard brand that doesn’t document how the brand has progressed to its success. He believes that Instagram is a tool that can be used to inspire. He said in an interview, “In a way, Instagram is more important than anything else. How many people can actually consume a piece versus watch a brand unfold on social media.” If a brand pushes itself to elucidate its creative process, and considers fashion as an art rather than as opposed to a commodity like Virgil Abloh does, more people will be personally drawn into the brand’s clothes and the brand itself. Jian DeLeon, senior menswear editor at WGSN, comments, “What Virgil does really well is cross-platform messaging. He realizes he is his brand and it’s in everything he does, from his DJ name being Flat White to wearing his products in public and connecting with young influencers who also wear his product. In addition to being inspired by youth culture, he remains an active part of it. Whereas Kanye West said ‘Listen to the kids,’ Virgil is actually out there with them.”
Magazine critics do not have as much power to influence and lead the edge of what is trendy in the fashion industry anymore. Currently, bloggers, models, and social media influencers are the new Anne Wintour. They influence people and consumers more because they use the social media that millennials are on better. Kendall Jenner, and Bella Hadid, two powerful figures in the Tumblr generation, and huge fans of Off-white, use their celebrity influence to shape the desired trends in the fashion industry. Virgil Abloh fully recognizes this phenomenon of social media enhancing the power celebrity influence has on individuals. He uses his social media to network and connects with his inspirations. And he resonates with famous millennials on a personal level, because both Virgil and the young celebrities, such as Models Luke Sabbat, the Jenner sisters, and the Hadid siblings, have the same ambition and mindset.
The world-renowned graphic designer, Michael Rock, once said, “Virgil can slip into a celebrity entourage and also have a really serious conversation with an architect. Not many people can bridge those worlds.” His creative mind, and his social media presence is connecting him with people he is inspired by, and people that are inspired by him. Having close connections with celebrity influencers that millennials follow only furthers his success. This is because when his celebrity friends wear his clothes and post them on social media, they are promoting his brand to their millions of fans. Personally, one of my biggest fashion inspirations is Bella Hadid. When I look through her Instagram I always click on pictures to see who she is wearing, and then I look them up. I first found Virgil Abloh’s Instagram page because I saw Bella Hadid wear his designs, and I was instantly in love. In part, because of Bella’s influence on me, and also because when I went to research Virgil, I felt connected to him on a more personal level. When you see his personal Instagram, you can instantly see his passion for design because he shares his creative process with you, and makes you feel apart of his obsession with the art of fashion.
Virgil Abloh is truly the man of the hour and he deserves that honour. His success is largely built on a demographic of young people who are renown for being fickle and who can quickly change their allegiance. He has mastered the use of social media, aligned himself with many celebrities and continues to inspire us as he climbs to success. He has understood that our generation has a say and that it is our generation that is now driving the fashion industry. He has understood that and is laughing all the way to the bank because of it.
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