Recently a Nike / Louis Vuitton / Virgil Abloh (officially the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh Experience) exhibit popped up in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Despite being challenging to get to (from Manhattan, this is either two subway lines, a ferry and a walk, or bike over two bridges), the venue was packed (at points the wait was over 2 hours). Fans from all over the tri-state, and possibly the country, came to this small Brooklyn neighborhood to bask in the late designer’s Spring-Summer 2022 sneaker collection. As influencers, what can we take away from this in building our own brands?
Build brands over earning money
Many influencers engage in work for hire, whether that’s sponsored content, advertising, or some kind of affiliate arrangement. While everyone needs short term cash to live, getting cash from brands to tell your fans about them might not be the best thing in the long run. Instead, build equity in your brand or name like Virgil did (or rather incorporate and build up your company, in Virgil’s case, Off-White). The Virgil Abloh (and Off-White) name lives on and has become a movement instead.
From a financial perspective as well, building a brand leads to a greater valuation. For example, $20,000 earned is $20,000 earned but $20,000 in sales leads to a company valued at higher than $20,000 because, for example, public markets put a price earnings multiple on your company valuation. So $20,000 earned multiplied by let’s say a 10x multiplier gives you a $200,000 company! Virgil smartly built up Off-White and then instead of being a work-for-hire at Louis Vuitton, convinced them to buy 60% of his company at multiples greater than what he would have earned as an employee (in addition to his salary!)
Cultivate your fan base
Virgil Abloh went from the founder of Off-White to the creative director of Louis Vuitton. Throughout the years Off-White’s fan base has stayed loyal to his vision, leading Louis Vuitton to purchase his company. Your loyal fans will stay with you especially if they see your talent and believe in your vision. Besides fashion, his fans stayed with him through his art and music phases. Abloh worked with Takashi Murakami and DJ’d extensively (on show at the LV/Nike exhibition in Greenpoint is one of Abloh’s turntables). Everywhere his fans went, Virgil was there!
Collaborate with other brands
The collaborations with artists, musicians, athletes, and fashion brands helped Virgil get his name out there in many different circles of entertainment. For fans of Nike, for example, that were not familiar with Off-white or Virgil Abloh, the collaboration brings credibility to him since Nike is arguably one of the most well known athletic apparel brands out there. Virgil and Off-White gives Nike a sense of street and underground credibility as well as the notion that they are at the cutting edge. It’s a win-win for both brands!
Virgil Abloh passed away on November 28, 2021 at the age of 41 in Chicago. He left behind a ton of fans, friends, and family. His legacy lives on however, and his fan base is stronger than ever as evidenced by the hour-long waits outside of the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, where the Nike / Louis Vuitton / Virgil Abloh exhibit (the Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” by Virgil Abloh Experience) was held.
Are you building a brand? Do you have any advice for readers? Any thoughts on Virgil’s path to success? (and what do you think about the new kicks that he dropped?) Drop us an email with any do’s or don’ts you may have learned along the way!