MAKING AMENDS: Virgil Abloh has issued an apology on social media after coming under fire online for comments about looters and a $50 donation he made to a bail fund.
The founder of Off-White and creative director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton published a lengthy statement in which he spoke of his experience as a black man in the United States, and reaffirmed his solidarity with the protests in the U.S. against police violence, racism and inequality.
“Yesterday I spoke out about how my stores and stores of friends were looted. I apologize that it seemed like my concern for those stores outweighed my concern for our right to protest injustice and express our anger and rage in this moment,” said the seven-page note published on Instagram and Twitter.
“I also joined a social media chain of friends who were matching $50 donations. I apologize that appeared to some as if that was my only donation to these important causes,” he added. “As many have said, buildings are brick and mortar and material things can be replaced, people can’t. Black lives matter. In this moment, those other things don’t.”
The controversy began after the designer posted a comment on Sean Wotherspoon’s Instagram account under footage of the looted vintage sneaker store Round Two in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles outpost of RSVP Gallery, the concept store originally founded in Chicago by Abloh and Don Crawley, was also looted over the weekend.
“This is f—ed up. You see the passion blood sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me. 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,” Abloh wrote.
“When you walk past him in the future please have the dignity to not look him in the eye, hang your head in shame,” he added. Though many commenters agreed with his statement, others took issue.
To one critic who suggested he donate money to poor neighborhoods in Chicago and Florida, Abloh replied: “I’m doing work in my community and putting up money WHILE getting looted myself.” It was not immediately clear which Off-White stores were impacted by looting.
Born in Rockford, Ill., of Ghanaian parents, Abloh in 2018 became Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few black designers at a leading French fashion brand. His first show that year was a watershed moment for the luxury industry, signaling the advent of streetwear culture.
A multihyphenate whose every project, product release and post is scrutinized by his legions of followers, Abloh came under fire after posting a receipt for a $50 donation to Fempower, a Miami-based artist collective that is raising funds to bail black women out of jail. Some commenters called the donation paltry when compared with the price of Off-White clothing.
In his subsequent statement, Abloh said that he has in fact donated $20,500 to bail funds and other causes related to the movement which started after the police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, on May 25.
“I will continue to donate more and will continue to use my voice to urge my peers to do the same,” he said. Abloh went on to list his initiatives to create opportunities for young people, including a platform titled “Community Service” that supports emerging black artists and designers with financial support and mentoring.
His upcoming projects include items where all proceeds support bail funds for protesters; a new art publication focused on the voices and work of black artists and writers, and a roundtable of other black leaders in creative industries.
“I want people to know that I am participating in his movement, from A-Z. Personally donating, being vocal not silent, addressing how my communitie within design and global streetwear can help to end racism,” Abloh said.