It’s been an immensely difficult time for everybody connected with the Louis Vuitton family following the passing of Virgil Abloh. Michael Burke, Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive officer whose relationship with Abloh stretched back to the designer’s days as a Fendi intern, has paid tribute to his late friend and colleague in a new interview with WWD.

Speaking at the opening of Vuitton’s new men’s store in Miami’s design district, an understandably emotional Burke said he had been in touch with Abloh on Saturday night just hours before his death. As well as fielding questions on the new location, he cautiously hinted at what’s next for the brand.

“The January show is 95 percent complete, so it’s really June,” he said. “Virgil was very organized, although he was capable of immense changes all the way through the last minute. He was very demanding; beneath this jovial, very genial demeanor he was very demanding. Contrary to Karl [Lagerfeld, with whom Burke worked when he headed Fendi], he didn’t know when to stop. Karl knew a month before the show — that’s it, his job is done.”

“Virgil had five different shows simultaneously in his mind — he never stopped. That’s one thing I would try to explain to him. And Off-White™ is the same issue. People would ask, ‘Michael, how do you handle this?’ And I would say, ‘Take his pen away.’ He would continue to design up to an hour before the show. It’s fascinating, but for the teams it’s very demanding. But the last few seasons he was more aware of that and, for the rest of the team, the aftereffects. Which allowed for the shows to be more complete.”

Burke then played down any talk of rushing to find a successor for Abloh ahead of next June’s show, instead highlighting the strength of his incumbent background team and the structure that is in place. “[The staff] don’t have to worry about June,” he said.

“The important thing in the last half-dozen years is that Louis Vuitton has proven that it is a luxury brand and a streetwear brand and both can coexist. And we’ve proven that the entire company can get behind and partner with very diverse geniuses.

“We have proven that the death of a designer is traumatic, but it’s not the death of the brand. Not at Vuitton.”

Burke confirmed Abloh was heavily involved in the design of the new store, which spans 3,586 square feet over two stories. Inside, there are all the by-now-familiar Vuitton Abloh-era interior design hallmarks, including various resin statues and works by local artists.

You can read the interview in full over at WWD.

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