Mn the black private plane, Virgil Abloh, 41, flew on again, after Louis Vuitton’s creative director arrived in Qatar for the opening of his Speech Figures exhibition at the Fire Station’s art space. The show has previously aired in Boston and Chicago. The museum’s retrospective may seem hasty, but haste is Abloh’s principle. A few months ago, LVMH – the world’s unsurpassed luxury conglomerate, which also owns Louis Vuitton – bought 60 percent of Abloh’s own fashion brand Off-White and with its help will build new partnerships and brands. Abloh thus has a “place at the table”, as it is called in business slang. What is meant: He is no longer a service provider, but a decision maker. A “Master of the Universe,” as the ironic Tom Wolfe would have said.
Virgil Abloh’s parents are from Ghana, he grew up near Chicago, never went to fashion school (he studied architecture) and just a few years ago felt more comfortable at Berghain’s DJ stand than at the Bulgari reception in Milan. His journey to the top of the fashion industry was unconventional but logical. He started with printed T-shirts, then rolled around Europe’s fashion shows in the wake of Kanye West becoming a fashion star who became a fashion entrepreneur, working for the avant-garde New York brand Hood by Air and with Fendi, and he found it perfect partner: New Guards Group, a fast Italian fashion startup.
Abloh understood early on that even a designer whose roots are in streetwear needs a bundle of creative references – for him, they range from Michael Jackson to Caravaggio. And absolute uniqueness: He uses quotes everywhere, on T-shirts, paper bags, works of art. They mark the post-modernist truth that everything is quote today – and produce coolness and universal recognizability. What helped him: That he perfectly masters and embodies the fashion world’s three current commandments – diversity, inclusion, social media. His appointment as creative director at Louis Vuitton was criticized by many for not being a “real” fashion designer. That’s exactly how he sees it. Abloh’s definition of luxury is not craft, but networking.
Boutique as proof of potency
The industry has for years wondered about the importance and future of physical stores. But Abloh knows: Extensive stores are proof of potential. He even decorated his flagship store in Milan: with pink rugs, real tree trunks and marble shelves with Rohrschach patterns. Beautiful, biting, established.
Bread and butter: the sneaker
No matter how talented a fashion designer may be, a business rule used to be that if he did not design a bestseller bag, he had a problem. Today, the same goes for sneakers. For many brands, such as Balenciaga, they are the key to growth. And hardly anyone has mastered the game with sneaker codes better than Abloh. His many years of partnership with Nike have repeatedly produced variations of the classics. Close to the original, yet fresh. An Air Jordan signed by him was auctioned in 2020 for $ 187,000.
God is a remix
Hoodie with wedding dress? A typical gag from Abloh’s label Off-White, which is not really one. The designer always explains in interviews that he bases his designs on his work as a DJ: He does not believe that things should be new, just combined correctly. Just remixed.
Wall system as sculpture
One of his most beautiful works as it shows two of his passions: music and modern classics. For the 100th anniversary of the Braun brand, which shaped the design as only Apple afterwards, Abloh transformed his iconic “wall system” from 1965 into a sculpture. Unfortunately, it does not come into series production, although any DJ colleague in the world would probably buy this item.
Fashion for a new era
And as a Louis Vuitton designer? As for most colleagues, the sometimes bold cuts are made by the design team. Abloh delivers absurd humor, bright colors and hybrid outfits (skirt, suit, anything) to men, women and everything in between. As well as bags that blend with body and fashion; he calls this idea “accessomorphosis”. “The new generation is changing things in real time,” he says of his fans. Instead, they stand in front of the bouncers at the exhibitions and cheer on the invited guests.
For Ikea, Abloh designed a mini-collection of products that could not be more banal and smart: a doormat made of artificial grass, a receipt in the form of a rug, a paper bag on which he had the word “Sculpture” printed. . Marcel Duchamp (one of his role models) came up with the idea of turning everyday objects into art a few decades earlier. At Abloh, there are virtually unlimited editions that you do not buy in the gallery, but at the local Ikea market.
Folding design and streetwear
Oh yes, the Louvre. Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z shot a video here, Juergen Teller photographed his muse Charlotte Rampling nude: Perhaps the most famous museum in the world stops. Neither does Abloh. Fifteen years after Takashi Murakami’s ingenious handbag shop at the Brooklyn Museum, he designed an off-white collection for the Louvre’s museum shop, which he had photographed with artful drapery in front of the old masters.
Three percent and more
Three percent change is enough, is Abloh’s strategy when revising classics. With his Mercedes G-Class, it’s something more: he imagined the off-road vehicle as a race car. The steering wheel with primary color buttons is reminiscent of a game console, from the outside the car looks like the vehicle of a hypocritical cartoon villain.
Bows to the masters
The former architecture student has respect for the guild’s major. Abloh had Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona pavilion converted into a Louis Vuitton presentation, he honored Rem Koolhaas’ illustrated theory book “Delirious New York” with a high-bomb jacket, and he reinterpreted several classics by Jean Prouvé for the producer Vitra. The “Petite Potence” wall lamp was first available in signal orange, then in baby blue.
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