We celebrate the legacy and achievements of Virgil Abloh. He was the era-defining artist. designer fashionLate last year, disruptor died.
The fashionThe American Virgil Abloh has been lost to the world. designerHe died in November at the shockingly young age of 41. The embodiment of a new wave of designers, Abloh didn’t merely achieve success creatively and commercially, but he was also a pioneer of change, in terms of fundamental artistic practices as well as diversity and representation.
Virgil Abloh was a champion of what was, from the beginning of his career. fashionindustry at the time, was the innovative concept of “ironic detachment”In this system, new designs can be created by simply changing 3 percent of an existing work. The philosophy, which was popularised in the visual arts by Dada artist Marcel Duchamp, saw its evolution in some of Abloh’s most revered works.
Virgil Abloh, An Era-defining Fashion Designer
Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2019 Menswear
Virgil Abloh is a civil engineer and an architect by training. fashion while pursuing his master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, on whose campus a building designed by Rem Koolhaas, the architect who’d also worked with the Italian fashionHouse Prada was still under construction at the time. It lit a spark in the graduate student that quickly flared into a flame, powering Abloh’s creativity and eventually leading to a career-redefining move to Rome where in 2009 he began an internship at Fendi.
Abloh spent most of his time in the fashion brand’s headquarters performing mundane tasks — endless photocopying interspersed by coffee runs — he was nonetheless able to work on such revolutionary ideas as leather jogging pants, a concept that Fendi was scandalised by and rejected, yet years later became an explosive streetwear trend.
Off-White autumn 2021 (Photo credit to Alessandro Lucioni/GoRunway).
In 2013, Abloh started Off-White, a brand now considered a household name by street-style mavens, from American hip-hop royalty to niche Insta-microcelebrities. Its founder described it as ” “the grey area between black and white”Off-White presented unconventional elements that were soon to be permanent fixtures in the streetwear vocabulary, such as barricade tape and zip-ties. Off-White shows quickly came to be regarded as the leading edge of each season’s streetwear, its runways walked by the likes of Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Amber Valletta.
On hearing of Abloh’s death, Campbell, who’d become both a muse and close friend of Abloh, shared these words Instagram: “On this very sad day we are left numb … but so much to learn from You, You were a mastermind of putting things together. You were humble and worked hard and brave with all You were going through, You lived the dream and got a seat at the table. HISTORIC!!! It was an honour to walk for you in your Off-White Princess Diana-inspired show …”
Naomi Campbell at Off White spring/summer 2018,
Abloh, who was hired by Louis Vuitton as a sales representative in March 2018, made history. First African American artistic director for a major French luxury brand.
Three months later, he made his first showAbloh and Maison held the event at Paris’ Palais-Royale Gardens. This was an extraordinary and pivotal occasion that brought him and Maison mainstream recognition. It also gave the Maison the chance to win over youth and provided a platform for endless artistic collaborations. The entire team was there to celebrate that June afternoon. fashion world was made aware of Abloh’s unique vision of luxury, a view deeply informed by art and architecture.
A couple of seasons later, in his autumn 2020 menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, Abloh turned his attention to a menswear staple that he’d previously ignored: the men’s suit. The entire presentation could be described as a study, in which Abloh’s ambition to deconstruct the original gentlemen’s uniform and examine every part of it was evident. He disrupted masculine archetypes using fur and ruffles. This was achieved through meticulous construction and an elaborate set. design, he created a new context for tailoring — one that would evolve with every subsequent collection.
Abloh’s approach to creativity was analytical, with deliberate references to works of art and architecture evident in each accessory and colour. His greatest work showThe Louis Vuitton menswear collection, autumn/winter 2021, was not a display of seasonal clothes but a reflection on the global socio-political environment.
In the show, Abloh not only referenced the Tourist vs Purist theme of his first collection but also explored Black consciousness, providing answers to questions that wouldn’t normally be heard from the mouths of fashionIndustry leaders
Voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he imbued pieces with elements that reflected his heritage — Ghanaian Kente cloth and wax-print fabrics — and merged them with Western fashionCodes, such as quilts and fedoras. Two pieces in this collection were particularly praised by fashion connoisseurs: an abnormally long coat and a surreal jacket featuring three-dimensional replicas of Notre-Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Pyramid and the Sacré-Cœur basilica.
Virgil Abloh entered Louis Vuitton as a multi-disciplinary artist — and during his painfully short yet impactful term there he remained one. It was his nature. Abloh had a strong connection to Takashi Murakami, a Japanese contemporary artist. They collaborated many times.
Glance Past The Future, 2018, Takashi Murakami, and Virgil Abloh
Their most famous joint project, the AMERICA TOO Exhibition at Gagosian, explored the country’s relationship with branding and its socio-political context. It was a match made to be: neither artist was afraid or unable to use cultural, historical, literary and pop-cultural reference to their work.
However, the show could be described as a clash of polarities that might have been hard to resolve successfully, in reality the introduction of Abloh’s Bauhaus-inspired minimalism into Murakami’s body of work was a triumphant testament to the ambitions of both artists in bridging disciplines.
When Abloh’s death was announced, Murakami reminisced about the times when the two worked together. “… I miss the days when you would come up to my studio and spend long hours with me,”He wrote. “I took my hat off to your vitality: I knew I was no match for you. The thing is, I’ve met only a handful of people in the world who get involved in art and manage to get to the core of it, and I can confirm that you are one of them.”
Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, OUR POINT 1, 2018,
Abloh left behind loyal followers and changed the landscape of art and luxury forever. His resilience in the face adversity was inspirational, and it was an inspiration to many creative minds.
Although the struggle for true equality is far from over, Abloh made a significant contribution towards equality. Olivier Rousteing was another prominent figure who shaken up French society. fashion, remembers Abloh being a dreamer.
“You made an entire world dream, you brought lights to entire generations,”Rousteing, now creative director at Balmain, said it. “By your art, your vision, your W O R D S, you made it clear that everything is possible. I remember us in Paris dreaming of fashion even before that everything started for us.”
And a dream is Abloh’s heritage — a dream of a world in which the possibilities and opportunities stem from talent and perseverance, and not from any individual’s skin-deep attributes.