"I was just inspired by people who said I have a vision [for the way I want to present myself], even though, I don’t necessarily have access to these resources to create something that I think would be beneficial, innovative, or just simply make me happy," he tells Refinery29.
Juliano, along with photographer Mystic Gooden did the entire shoot in just under an hour at 2 o'clock in the morning, on December 31.
"Hey @virgilabloh, can I earn an internship? I have ideas," Juliano tweeted the following day, sharing the project with the world. Virgil Abloh first gained traction as Kanye West's longtime creative collaborator but has since launched his own brand Off-White (as well as many, many brand partnerships) and is currently the artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear. Immediately, the responses poured in ranging from "This is amazing. If they don't reply, they're missing out for real" to "You better delete this before he steals it and calls you a 'reference point.'" At the time of publishing, Juliano's tweet had more than 4K retweets and 18K likes. On Thursday, Juliano tweeted that Marc Jacobs (who was Louis Vuitton's creative director for 16 years, until 2013) approved of his design.
The Columbus, Ohio native looks at the shoot as a way to pay homage to "street couture" designers that inspired him, like Dapper Dan, a Harlem-based fashion designer known for creating flashy clothing, leather items, and car interiors with unauthorized designer logos in the ’80s and ’90s. Just last year, Dan reopened his atelier with the help of Gucci after Alessandro Michele was accused of knocking off an iconic mink jacket from the master of knock-offs. This inspired Juliano, who says he typically shies away from high-fashion brands but argues Dan's work made the fashion industry, by way of the Harlem tailor's pieces, accessible.
As for his hair, Juliano explained he was inspired to incorporate ornaments after seeing the way singer Kelela wore jewels in her hair. The beads would become a substantial part of his art. "I started looking at tribes in Africa, studying what beads mean and what they represent," but also, he references his own childhood as a Black child with Black friends and family. "The girls always wore beads and boys did, too, in the early 2000s." He believes the early aughts don't get enough credit. "That whole era meant a lot to where I grew up in the Midwest."
Juliano says he hasn't heard from anyone at Louis Vuitton regarding his work, but that he hopes if nothing else, Abloh is inspired. "I truly admire [Abloh] and the dynamics of how, like Dapper Dan, he didn’t have access but now he does have access to create new pieces," as now Abloh is a big part of an industry that once rejected streetwear. The artist explained that he'd like to see Abloh experiment with men's silhouettes, exploring the male physique more — besides the standard jeans and T-shirt — while at Vuitton.
"Virgil can definitely create space for Black people in the fashion industry," he continues. "We see it time and time again that we have limited space." He continues: "I think it’s just an unspoken responsibility, that whenever we’re granted space to create more space for other Black people who have not had the same access or opportunities to get in to have influence and impact, knowing that we create a lot of the culture."
And hey, at least Juliano has already demonstrated he'd actually work during an internship at a fashion house (unlike, ahem, someone else).