Virgil Abloh, JW Anderson and the edgy streetwear designers redefining mainstream fashion – after scoring creative director gigs at top LVMH luxury brands

The young streetwear designers turned overnight fashion bigwigs: Jonathan Anderson, Yoon Ahn and Virgil Abloh. Photos: @jonathan_anderson; @yoon_ambush; @virgilabloh/Instagram
The world of luxury fashion isn’t an easy one to break into, so it goes without saying that to reach the top at a prestigious fashion house takes something special. However in recent years there’s been a welcome change of pace – and diversity – at many brands, with a new wave of savvy trend-setting designers who first proved their fashion chops on the street before being snapped up to far bigger gigs at luxury houses, bringing their edge and influence among millennials and Gen Z with them.
In a large part streetwear is seen as cheap. What my goal has been is to add an intellectual layer to it and make it credible
Virgil Abloh
Here are four of our favourite creatives who went from cult following to major industry player in record time – all now working with mainstream brands under the all-powerful LVMH staple.

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Virgil Abloh: from Off-White to Louis Vuitton

Virgil Abloh waves to the audience at one of his show’s for Louis Vuitton back in June 2019 in Paris. Photo: AFP
For US designer Virgil Abloh, self-launched streetwear brand Off-White marked the turning point of his career. His unconventional designs – adding visible tags and quotation marks to his clothing and trainers, for starters – created plenty of hype. And after he launched a collaboration with Nike, his career went from strength to strength.
From Off-White to Louis Vuitton Photos: @off___white/Instagram; Louis Vuitton
So it wasn’t the hugest surprise that a mere four years after launching Off-White, Abloh was appointed to design Louis Vuitton’s menswear line and made history as the first African-American designer to take the influential men’s artistic director position. For his debut spring/summer 2019 collection for the fashion house, Abloh opted for a youthful collection in a riot of colours that was heavily influenced by street culture. Famous fans of his work now include A$AP Rocky, Kanye West and Rihanna.

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One of Virgil Abloh’s more eye-catching bags for Louis Vuitton’s autumn/winter 2019/2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: EPA-EFE

When asked to explain his designs to The Business of Fashion, Abloh said: “In a large part streetwear is seen as cheap. What my goal has been is to add an intellectual layer to it and make it credible.”

Matthew Williams: from 1017 Alyx 9SM to Givenchy

Mathew Williams’ appointment as creative director of Givenchy marks yet another streetwear designer’s graduation to one of the world’s historic fashion houses. Photo: @matthewmwilliams/Instagram
After making a name for himself by designing notable stage outfits for Kanye West and Lady Gaga, by 2015, Williams had decided to found his own brand alongside his wife Jennifer and urban brand designer Luca Benini. For the next five years, the label – partly named after the couple’s daughter Alyx – gained the attention of everyone from Dior and Nike to Moncler, spawning collaborations on all manner of accessories and clothes, from utility buckles to T-shirts.

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Matthew Williams’ creation for his own brand 1017 Alyx 9SM (left), and Dior (right). Photo: @alyxstudio; @dior/Instagram
When Dior Homme’s artistic director Kim Jones was considering accessories for his spring-summer 2019 collection, he told Esquire he knew he wanted to work with his friend Williams. Adding 1017 Alyx 9SM’s signature buckle to the house’s saddle bags, backpacks, high and low-top trainers and caps, the collection remains a reference point for luxury streetwear aficionados.
In June 2020, Givenchy announced that Williams would take over from Clare Waight Keller as the fashion house’s creative director. Given most brands urgency to appeal to Gen-Z and millennials, his technical skill and ability to innovate seemed to play a large part, with Givenchy’s official statement saying that his “intuitive understanding of tailoring, technology and integrity in fashion make the designer an ideal steward for carrying the Givenchy legacy forward with modernity and power”.

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Jonathan Anderson: from JW Anderson to Loewe

The Northern Irish designer graduated from London College of Fashion before moving to the US. Photo: Loewe

In 2008, just three years after graduating from a degree in menswear design, Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson launched his eponymous label, gaining sponsorship from the British Fashion Council for his first collection that same year. The designer is best known for his creative use of fabrics, strange proportions, volumising layers and ability to expertly mix patterns and employ accessories to great effect.

Jonathan Anderson’s quirky designs for JW Anderson (left), and for Loewe (right). Photos: @jw_anderson; @loewe/Instagram
After successful collaborations with Topshop and Versace, LVMH spotted the designer’s potential and took a stake in JW Anderson in 2013. As part of the agreement he was also appointed as creative director of Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe.
In a bid to capture the Spanish spirit of Loewe, Anderson had the idea of reviving his favourite legendary fashion boutique from his travels in Ibiza, Paula’s, leading to a “ collection within a collection” that delighted customers by offering playful (and more affordable) accessories. This year’s Loewe’s Paula’s summer pop-up at Harrods recreated the Balearic island vibe, and no doubt helped win over more fans amid the global pandemic with its gorgeous bright colours, pineapple bucket bags and raffia ruffles.

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Yoon Ahn: from Ambush to Dior Homme

Yoon Ahn’s Ambush brand had international street cred from the moment Kanye West started wearing her designs. Photo: @yoon_ambush/Instagram

Not unlike Matthew Williams’ origin story, former graphic designer Yoon Ahn began creating stage accessories for her husband, famous Japanese rapper Verbal. Her styling drew all the right kind of attention and, in 2004, the couple founded a jewellery brand called Antonio Murphy & Astro. It was another four years before Ambush was born, and its giant gold chains and chokers became an instant success, gaining Yoon international attention after Kanye West was seen sporting her “POW!” pendant.

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Ahn (in red and green jacket) surrounded by Drake, Virgil Abloh and other Nike collaborators in New York. Photo: @yoon_ambush/ Instagram

Ahn’s blending of the avant-garde with Tokyo street style clearly appealed to other urban labels like Reebok, Off-White and BAPE – who all collaborated with her on several items – but also to more traditional fashion houses keen to reach a younger, more hip client base, including Louis Vuitton and Bulgari.

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Yoon Ahn’s design for Ambush and Dior’s spring/summer 2022 collection. Photo: @ambush_official; @yoon_ambush/ Instagram

With collaborators like these, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Ahn was snapped up by former Dior Homme creative director Kim Jones to be the brand’s jewellery designer. While Jones has since moved to Fendi, Ahn continues to create futuristic and edgy pieces for the storied French brand.

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Street style
  • When Kanye West and Lady Gaga wear your designs, Louis Vuitton and Dior take notice: how these top streetwear designers were catapulted into the world’s top fashion jobs
  • Korean-American designer Yoon Ahn began by creating stage accessories for her husband, Japanese rapper Verbal, before getting calls from Dior Homme and Fendi