How Rihanna and Virgil Abloh Disrupted the Fashion Industry In 2018

Virgil Abloh and Rihanna
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Abloh (left) and Rihanna at the Louis Vuitton menswear spring/summer 2019 show in Paris in June. 

You could not read about Virgil Abloh’s appointment as men’s director at Louis Vuitton in March, or Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty debut lingerie show at New York Fashion Week in September, without the word “disrupter” appearing in close proximity.

There was Abloh’s unconventional résumé -- architecture student-turned-Kanye West creative consigliere-turned-DJ-turned-Off White creative director without a fashion degree -- coupled with his becoming the first black person to lead the menswear division of LVMH’s crown jewel. For Rihanna, there was a bucking of long-held lingerie tropes; her spotlighting of curves, rolls and a spectrum of skin tones without the diamond-encrusted bras or headdresses that have defined the Victoria’s Secret notion of “sexy” for decades.

You can certainly call these things “disruptions” -- the breaking apart of what has been. But more than anything, Abloh’s and Rihanna’s work proved a coming together. With a collection that seamlessly connected youth and celebrity culture, streetwear and high fashion, Abloh is leading a monumental shift in which luxury conglomerates are investing in hip-hop-steeped streetwear rather than viewing it as an external fad. Rihanna, who was heralded for inclusivity on the runway, continued to bridge artist and brand identities, illustrating that the biggest cultural (and bank) statements can be made by refusing to be the face of someone else’s message, and by choosing to tell the story herself.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2018


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