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Fashion Revolution: Virgil Abloh

The distinctive features that made him possible to turn a lifestyle into a successful brand

Fashion Revolution: Virgil Abloh  The distinctive features that made him possible to turn a lifestyle into a successful brand

Virgil Abloh: architect, engineer, graphic artist, affirmed DJ, Kanye West right-hand man, creative director of OFF-WHITE and devourer of culture. Virgil Abloh is a multifaceted character.

Born in 1980, son of Ghanaian immigrants, his father runs a company of paints and the mother is a seamstress, the boy grew up in Rockford, Illinois, obsessed with skateboarding, hip-hop culture, streetwear, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. He attended Catholic high school, then the University of Wisconsin where he graduated in civil engineering and eventually completed a masterís degree in architecture. His life seems programmed and Virgil intended for a regular job in an office, when in 2002, at the age of 22, leaves his role as a project manager in an architecture firm to become creative director of Kanye West and his think tank line Donda.

It is the beginning of a new life.

For the Atlanta rapper, the guy runs tours, performance, deals with artwork and merchandise, is a friend, right arm, so much to follow him in an internship at Fendi.

Along with West he grows, develops its potential, absorbs creativity and rethinks it to his own codes until it becomes Pyrex Vision in 2012. Abloh has no idea how to make a dress, does not know anyone who knows how to cut and sew, all he has is a vision, a fashion idea, and a desire to impose his own identity. The only thing he can do is get a stock of Ralph Lauren t-shirts or Champion's flannels, customize them with his own name and the number 23, a tribute to Michael Jordan, and sell them at $ 550. The project raises numerous criticisms and an equal amount of hype, but ends in a few months, laying the foundations for OFF-WHITE, a brand new Milan-based brand launched in September 2013.




According to the definition of its founder

"Off-White is a blurring together of street culture and a refined aesthetic. It's a new luxury, a sort of casual luxury. It's a brand that takes its cues from the present and longs for uniqueness".

OFF-WHITE means sweatshirts, tees, leather jackets, ripped jeans and sneakers inspirations ranging from hip-hop culture to Martha Stewart, from the works of Caravaggio to Raf Simons, from Supreme to Mies van der Rohe. The brand's codes? Basic garments, emphasis on distinctive graphics, architectural approach, logo with diagonal stripes in the foreground and unmistakable "white" writing.

"I love graphics, and I wear plain tees all the time. So all that is OFF-WHITE: post-Tumblr, post-street style, post-Tommy Ton documenting outfits". 

Virgil says that all this is part of his label.

The success is immediately insane: nearly two million followers on Instagram and more than seven hundred thousand on the personal profile; acclaimed shows part of the official program of the fashion week in Paris; guest star last edition of Pitti Uomo; hype and stellar sales; LVMH Prize finalist in 2015; filling social networks, magazines and blogs and became part of the wardrobe of a large number of people.

Virgil Abloh has transformed his lifestyle into a successful brand, realizing that today hoodie is the new men's jacket, Instagram, and other social networks are a key element for a contemporary fashion brand, as is equally vital attention to the road and its style.

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#1 Street Culture


To inspire Abloh are DJs, visual artists who create something outside the box, but above all the youth: the guys from New York, London, Paris and the way they break the boundaries in the name of self-expression.

If it was once fashion to dictate the rules, now is people to dictate the style, revealing a loss of boundaries between genres reflected in the gender-fluid trend of the latest collections and highlighting the fact no real wardrobe is made up of pieces of a single brand, but is, rather, a mix.

So for the founder of OFF-WHITE, the only sensible thing is that the high fashion becomes reactionary and makes it looking the street.

"There's a new garde on the scene today", Virgil explains, "The kids who grew up in America look at luxury brands differently to previous generations. They know what's going on and they make informed choices. At the same time, streetwear has developed autonomously and created its own language. Louis Vuitton and Hermès are cult brands and their fans adhere to their values. The streetwear brands do the same thing.

So there's a whole slice of up and coming society that's been nourished and cradled by the two worlds of luxury and streetwear, which up until now have been irreconcilable".

To fill this new space between the two realities of style was born OFF-WHITE. A brand that is bound to what people really wear, but what it really means the term "streetwear" for Abloh?

"A genre of art and design that revolves around principles of irony, DIY and pop-culture".



#2 Millenials 


"Mine is a kind of brand for Millennials. I accept it and want it that way", and again, "Everyone is free to think what they want in my fashion. But I'm not a politician I'm an artist who turns to young people, the millennials, which today refers to the fashion system as a target and which for me are instead a source of inspiration. For them, who do not expect the recognition of adults to create a social profile on their own and start working, I try to communicate my positive energy and values that come from street style and art: love, joy, and respect for others".

Virgil Abloh says it clearly: he wants to represent his generation, dialogue with it, design clothes according to the millenials perspective. They inspire him, those young people who express their personality through their style based on a mix of vintage clothing and new pieces, male and female, who loves the casual streetwear, jeans, and t-shirts, but be aware, attentive to detail, sophisticated.


#3 Instagram's Power

"I look at Instagram all day and travel and text with friends", or even, "I follow a ridiculous amount of people. But it's all part of the same reality of embracing technology. I used to hate Instagram! I'd just tweet. But then that's just not a very modern way of thinking.
I like the ability to see what's going on around the world, see what's trending, if people are posting the same things what does that say?"

The relationship between Abloh and Instagram is very tight and the designer often mentions the social network as a source of inspiration for his brand. Fashion for him is not a closed-door system and, therefore, publishing photos is a way to break the barriers between fashion makers and wearers.

Virgil shows to his over 700,000 personal followers the making of his collections, asks for views on sketches by presenting two fabrics and asking them to choose or give them a chance to get tickets to his next show. All of his fans pay him back with devotion, not just by buying OFF-WHITE garments, but by advertising it through a virtual post chain.


#4 Unity is strength


"I see fashion as art. It is a medium. And collaborations are the exciting part of creativity".

Abloh told this several times, highlighting how to collaborate with people and brands bringing a new perspective to his world, to help think differently, expand the repertoire and not only stimulate it, but also an excellent method to modernize the look of a brand.

Perhaps this is why the number of OFF-WHITE partnerships is multiplying continuously, so far as to become part of its DNA: over the years,  Abloh worked with artists such as Nick Knight, Riccardo Tisci, Kim Jones, Takashi Murakami, Olivier Rousteing, Giuseppe Zanotti or Silvia Venturini from Fendi and labeled Nike, Ikea, Kith NYC, Levi's, Vans, Vlone, SSENSE, Dover Street Market, Umbro, Moncler.