Virgil AblohHow the Creative Polymath Is Pushing Fashion to New HeightsBY YASHA WALLIN
PHOTO BY PIOTR NIEPSUJ
ISSUE No 5
How the Creative Polymath Is Pushing Fashion to New Heights
BY YASHA WALLIN
PHOTO BY PIOTR NIEPSUJ
ISSUE No 5
irgil Abloh is texting me mid-flight. I didn’t catch the designer’s exact coordinates, but there was mention of him being in five countries in five days. In just the past two days I lamented missing his secret show in Berlin with Kanye West, rapper A$AP Rocky, and comedian Dave Chappelle, and his DJ set in Copenhagen the following day. This globetrotting is typical for Abloh, who’s known for his influence on street culture through his label Off-White and his many years working with Kanye West as his creative director. The two can be credited with shifting the perception of who can have a voice—and rise to prominence—in the largely insular fashion industry. Then there’s his penchant for collaboration, which the Chicago-based polymath has turned into an art form. Abloh’s voracious appetite for working with others has changed the game in terms of how we think about the design process; he’s collaborated with rapper Lil Uzi Vert, the NYC ballet, Nike, IKEA, and countless more in the past year alone. He’s also a highly sought-after DJ, with eccentric sets where Miles Davis and Migos live comfortably side by side. And just this March, in a game-changing moment in the fashion industry, Abloh was appointed artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. It’s because of this multi-dimensionality that Abloh has gained such a cult following. Everyone from the highly connected, always-on youth market to (slightly older) women like myself covet his every release, digest his influential talks at institutions like Harvard, and keep tabs on his social media as an education unto itself. Where better to catch up with (aka text) Abloh and discuss his international omnipresence than in flight, during a rare moment he was sitting still.
You’re a man of many mediums. What do you tell people you do?
At the core of what drives me is an ambition to constantly be creative. A designer at the core I figure is the best title.
Why is collaboration so important to you?
Collaboration yields new ideas. I love the accidents that happen in that crash.
What do you see as your biggest creative accomplishment thus far?
I try not to focus on accomplishments but rather a lineage of projects. I’m happy to be able to do what I do in succession.
I look at your body of work as including everything from your impactful lectures on the design process to developing an Off- White collection. Do you treat your intellectual output in the same way as your physical (product-based) output?
Yeah, I think it’s important to shed light on the thought process. Objects need context. Also, rationalizing past projects helps inform new projects.
What do you think about the evolution of streetwear today and how big it has grown?
I think it’s just representative of our current times. It’s a reflection of how people’s taste in clothes has shifted.
Is it healthy for kids to be as obsessed with designers and products as they are?
Yeah, passion about design is never a bad thing. I actually think it’s a great thing to pay attention to design.
Have we reached a peak in streetwear or is there infinitely more that can be explored?
It’s hard to tell. Again, I think fashion’s tastes are simply a mirror to its engaged public.
You design with the youth in mind—what were you wearing in your early years?
I was dressed like an average skate kid at the time. Also, I was into fashion. Both informed my style.
I see you directly elevating culture because you’re curious about so many creative disciplines, that those who look up to you also follow suit. Do you feel a responsibility to push the culture forward in this way?
In a way, I feel responsible to my creative impulse. Fulfilling that, I love the side effect that my work has a communicative ability to expand the conversation about design.
How do you “look” at art?
I look at art fast. I stop when something intrigues me.
What’s the last piece of art you saw that stuck with you?
Not sure, but it surely happens just as often in everyday life as it does in a gallery.
I love that last year’s Off-White collection was inspired in part by the women’s marches. How much do you think about politics or social issues when you take on a creative project?
I am very much into my collections representing the life and times they are created in.
As someone at the helm of a company and with your creative endeavors, how much do you think about gender equality?
We all have a responsibility to make life as fair as possible to all. The world deserves hope and humanity.
The theme of this issue is “game changers.” Who do you see as a game changer?
Anyone that wants to make a difference is a game changer.
Worst track anyone’s requested you to DJ?
Hahah. That’s the best part of never taking requests.
What’s the best night you can remember DJing?
9 times outta 10 they are epic times