Virgil Was Here
The first Black man to head a French luxury house, Virgil Abloh has undoubtedly paved the way for young creatives to redefine fashion. It was in 2013 when Virgil Abloh launched the multi-million-dollar fashion house, Off-White. Since then, he has cemented himself as a legend in the fashion industry, a creative force, and has influenced high fashion today like no other. His private battle with cancer is a testament to his work ethic and commitment to his craft. The passing of Virgil has come as a shock to us all but let us celebrate the momentous career that he has led, and the work that he showcased to the world.
2009. After graduating college as an architect, it was as an intern at Fendi where Virgil would enter the fashion world alongside with long-time friend and collaborator, Kanye West. With the help of Kanye’s prominence in the fashion sphere, Virgil inevitably excelled, catching the eye of his soon to be artistic partner, Don C. Abloh and Don C established the RSVP Gallery in Chicago, in which Virgil was given the tools to create his first brand, Pyrex. Buying deadstock Ralph Lauren and up marketing them with his original designs was the premise of Pyrex, which acted as his fashion experiment before the creation of Off-White. It was also around this time where Virgil acted as artistic director for the major collaborative album between Jay-Z and Kanye West: Watch the Throne. Virgil’s numerous enterprises into different industries from the beginning has proved him to be a multidisciplinary visionary, long before he was anointed at Louis Vuitton Men’s. Barriers and distinctions were a myth to him. The lines between art, music, architecture, film, and fashion were fluid to Virgil, forever making the seeming impossible, possible.
2013. Off-White was founded: a streetwear brand which revolutionised the demand and hype for clothes. Climbing the ranks with his peers’ streetwear brands Heron Preston and Palm Angels, Off-White aimed to redefine streetwear and the connotations it carried. Instantly recognisable, the fashion house is a culmination of Abloh’s musical influences as well as his familiarity with the skateboarding, New York underground scene. Extortionate resale value and ‘hypebeast’ culture has made certain Off-White silhouettes the most sought-after pieces in the streetwear community. Virgil’s numerous collections with Nike are grail sneakers, with the graffitied aesthetic influencing masses to deface their own standard issue Nikes. Arguably, the most memorable Nike collaboration would be the Off-White x Air Jordan 1 Chicago, as Virgil distributed customised variations of the shoe to countless athletes and celebrities, such as Roger Federer and Chance the Rapper. The buzz around the brand has not faded since it was originated, which speaks to the legacy of the brand. Virgil’s consistency with Off-White and the drive to deliver high quality streetwear is what proved him worthy of a role at LVMH.
2018. A barrier-breaking moment in fashion unfolded as Virgil Abloh debuted his first Spring/Summer collection with luxury fashion house, Louis Vuitton. Takashi Murakami, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian were just a few of the famous faces that attended and documented the runway, as history was being made. Virgil’s usage of prominent Black musicians such as Dev Hynes, Playboi Carti, Kid Cudi and Steve Lacy exemplified the mission that Virgil had at his time at Louis Vuitton. He shattered the rigid norms of luxury fashion by incorporating streetwear silhouettes such as utility vests and chained bags into the collection. The runway elicited a standing ovation from the crowd, as Virgil tearfully embraced long-time friend, and his once fellow Fendi intern, Kanye West in an emotional reunion.
It is hard to summarise the ground-breaking work of Virgil Abloh in so little words. His career trajectory has been nothing short of inspirational: he dedicated his life to his work, and it is clear to see that he earned every achievement that met him along the way. Never complacent, Virgil was a true innovator that has shifted the culture time and time again, in both music and fashion. He has endorsed small independent brands, giving flowers to those that come after him, such as Corteiz and Clints. His work is truly transcendent of his time with us: his legacy will never fade in conversation. Quoted by his wife in an Instagram post, “He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations”. His impact on fashion today is proof that Virgil has inspired millions, making his time on Earth truly valuable to a generation and beyond.
Image Credits: Flickr