With the news that Virgil Abloh‘s cult streetwear label has become “the hottest brand in the world“, Iona Tompkins looks into what the future holds for Off-White.
Less than a decade ago, the word “Off-White” was used purely in the semantic field of wallpaper and emulsion, seen perhaps as more tasteful than magnolia and less clinical than brilliant white. How beautifully ironic that Abloh has repurposed the very essence of banality, the most unobtrusive of colours, and transformed it into what can be regarded as the cutting edge of post-modern fashion.
Abloh’s journey into the fashion industry may partially help to explain the stark difference between his designs and those of his contemporaries. Having graduated in civil engineering and worked in architecture for multiple years, his street-wear inspired designs elegantly disguise their own structural complexity – as does the mass hysteria and cult following they attract. Some may be surprised to learn that the company’s headquarters are in Milan, perhaps considering the creative director’s American origins and pared down aesthetic. Yet beneath the smoke and mirrors that inevitably accompany fashion shows, Off-White has a far greater sensitivity to history and technical fabrication than many give it credit for.
The simple act of seeing functional minimalism as beautiful is in itself a quiet revolution, and perhaps one Abloh will be attempting to recreate at Louis Vuitton following his recent appointment. Yet, what has truly differentiated Off-White from its competition has been its consistently well thought through collaborations. These range from Nike to Jimmy Choo, Moncler, Levi and all the way back to Serena Williams. Most impressively, they have maintained the delicate balance between allowing the brand to engage with a wider audience than its $800 hoodies alone would allow, whilst not falling into a spiral of brand dilution. However, more is set to come, with joint endeavours as disparate as Ikea and the New York City Ballet in the pipeline.
Despite Abloh being an undoubtedly zeitgeist designer and stating that he is “not too considerate on the future”, Off-White needs to continue to focus on maintaining authenticity despite its exponential growth, ensuring the company remains firmly grounded and does not take its position as the defining voice in the streetwear fashion movement for granted.
Having said the “next generation” is his muse, remaining in touch with those he is designing for, whilst balancing his role as creative director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, will be the designer’s key challenge for the upcoming seasons.
By Iona Tompkins.
Image: The Sole Supplier