The Virgil Abloh Colour Code

A menswear guide to tonal dressing

Words: Daniël Geldenhuys | Images: Getty Images

Virgil Abloh’s influence as a designer is significant because it reaches beyond the fashion industry bubble, conflating a luxury house like Louis Vuitton with the youthful streetwear-centric subculture creatives he counts as fans. As Vuitton’s menswear designer, Abloh is doing the most to make menswear as a category relevant and accessible, bolstering both male interest in luxury clothing and the significance of menswear overall.

Two Vuitton collections in, Abloh’s chief visual signifier is tonal dressing. His unique view on modern luxury takes into account the fact that most men (especially his young fans) can’t afford Louis Vuitton. Once they’ve saved up, they’d be more likely to invest in a bag, maybe a jacket, but probably not a full look. Where does that leave tonal dressing? Ripe for adoption as a code amongst Abloh fans, whether they’re wearing Louis or not. It’s a simple and effective way to pledge your allegiance to the era-defining success story Abloh represents as the first African American designer at a truly iconic luxury house.

Cracking the Virgil Abloh colour code sans Vuitton product is completely doable, as long as you abide by the three rules of tonal dressing illustrated at Virgil’s Vuitton Fall 2019 show.


Store in a cool, dark place

Abloh certainly doesn’t shy away from bold colour, but he set the tone for his LV reign with a stark white palate cleanser, moving into browns and light pastel greens. Fall 2019 kicked off with a super accessible play with grey, before moving into black and camel with pops of purple and red in between. All this to say, start with a classic cool or dark tone: these colours are easy and elegant, making a subtle statement worthy of Abloh’s wonderfully gentle style of showmanship.

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Simmer for volume and texture

When you’re only wearing one colour, the attention immediately shifts to the textural details of clothes themselves. To that end, play with proportions, layering (with outerwear and or accessories depending on climate) and texture to give the look substance.

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Season it

Sometimes it’s a great idea to add a pop of colour to show a little sense of humour. The best way to do this is with accessories: a waist bag, sneakers, eyewear, or even a block-colour sock. The main thing you need to keep in mind when going tonal: the smallest detail makes the biggest impact.

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