Scott Adams once said “Ideas are worthless, execution is everything” and many venture capitalists and tech aficionados echoed that sentiment. To some degree especially in the business world, it makes sense, but in this new world of easy tools, instant marketing, and lucky lottery winners it might not.
Nowadays, influencers can gain a following via free social tools, drop ship products with no initial upfront inventory costs, and make professional looking photos and videos with the click of a few buttons. A lucky algorithmic glitch, a chance share, or an unlikely pickup changes the fortune from a side hustle into an empire.
Virgil Abloh landed an internship at Fendi, where he met Kanye West, who was also doing an internship there on his way to designing his Yeezy brand. That chance encounter led Abloh to the creative director position at Donda, West’s creative content company, to a Grammy Award for art directing West and JayZ’s album.
Things snowballed from there in 2012 with his release of Pyrex Vision to the 2013 launch of Off White to 2017 Murakami and Nike collaborations to the 2018 take over from Kim Jones of the creative director role at Louis Vuitton. In 2019 Farfetch bought Off Whit’es parent company New Guards Group for $675 million. And recently Louis Vuitton purchased 60% of Off White LLC. What a ride!
Now how did LVMH purchase Off White when Farfetch owns it? They purchased a majority of Off White LLC which is not the operations of the fashion company, rather it is the man behind the company, Virgil Abloh, himself. Off White LLC is the company where Abloh conducts his personal business operations and most likely the entity holding all of the intellectual property of Off White including trademarks and copyrights.
Having a stake in Off White LLC gives LVMH access to his collaborations with Nike, Gagosian, Ikea, and other blue chip names, the clubs that he DJs at, galleries where he exhibits his work, his scholarship fund, and his other socially forward initiatives. In other words, LVMH bought Abloh’s ideas and access. LVMH also buys into his mission of social progress, equity, inclusion, and diversity, something that is typically challenging for an exclusive luxury brand.
What does this mean for you and your ideas?
Don’t work alone, collaborate!
You can’t do it alone and like most people, collaborations are key. West was given a chance initially by Jay Z by signing him to Roc-a-fella and West paid it forward to Abloh. The collaborations of Abloh with Murakami expanded both of their audiences as well as Abloh’s collaborations with Ikea, Nike, and Moncler. Each partnership was a win-win exposing each other’s following to the other’s work.
While the opportunity to become Virgil Abloh is one in ten billion, the odds have never been better to turn your passion into a business. It is the easiest time in history to take your ideas and turn them into something solid and concrete. Abloh went from obscurity to global icon in a decade. Kylie Jenner’s makeup line went from zero to almost a billion dollars in three years. The great thing about these short timelines is that this gives you many more chances to get it wrong because when you get it right, the ascent is immediate.
Getting lucky doesn’t mean that you aren’t talented and that you don’t’ work hard. Getting lucky is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. Abloh definitely got lucky. He had honed his craft enough when he ran into West at Fendi, hit the right trend with Pyrex Vision, and had perfect timing when Kim Jones stepped down from LVMH. Putting your work out there daily is one version of how to get lucky. Picasso created over 50,000 works in his life. On average two a day. Some became masterpieces and some became not so acclaimed, but the only way to get to his masterpieces was to create the intermediate works.
Keep working, and while we previously said it’s easy to create content, it’s hard to create good content. Keep working and lets’ get lucky!