Posted by Stephan Moskovic | July 18th, 2017

Off-White, A Brand Apart

Over a short time Virgil Abloh’s Off-White has turned its well founded buzz into a permanent reputation, emerging as a force amidst the new streetwear agenda–the one it helped create. That’s thanks to Abloh and his metronomic instincts for all things cool across the board. He is a new kind of mastermind, or by definition a modern renaissance man: a degree in civil engineering and a master’s in architecture, a DJ, a furniture designer, creative director of his own successful label, oh, and Kanye West’s creative director, humbly. spoke with the It-designer about setting his brand apart and his Spring / Summer collection, below photographed by Viktor Vauthier.

Interview by Steven Yatsko for

Photographer : Viktor Vauthier @ The Art Board
Casting director : Nicolas Bianciotto
Styliste : Louise Follain
Hair : Anais Sebagh
Make up : Methta Gonthier @ airport
Groomer : Laetitia Sireix

Thanks to les studios français & The ArtBoard

Alex Binaris
Alizée Coucke
Bara Podzimkova
Evelyn Rose
Jenaye Noah
Katie Braatvedt
Léa Julian
Louise Baillieu
Marthe Woertman
Nina Marker
Zuzu Tadeushuk

The last time you spoke to was the LVMH Young Designer Prize, I wanted to know if there were any revelations since then?
Quite a lot. It seems like it’s been 10 years ago since then the way pace and the culture moves, the way that the fashion industry shapes and molds. I think within a 3 month period in fashion a lot can be learned and I’m definitely at the place where I’m learning a lot.

Is there anything specifically that sticks out?
Specifically, beyond culture in general, acceptance of what is modern and what is cool. I think more so than me designing–both the political world, the art barometer, the idea of what the term fashion really means, has all really been in flux. It makes a lot of interesting things that are pushing and pulling at each other to design from.

I think that streetwear has an important relevance to society now.

Since you’re an authority, do you think streetwear and ready-to-wear differ? Or not any more and what has been disrupted?
I do think so, much in the same way where Yves Saint Laurent accentuated the idea of the importance of the need of ready-to-wear while couture was the prevailing idea of fashion design. I think that streetwear has an important relevance to society now and I think there is a different form of fashion design theology and approach. I think it just filled an ultra-realistic almost, in a way, a reality based fashion.

When you referred to realistic fashion, is it more desirable for this generation of buyers? In the way they wear fashion…
Yeah fashion to them is a way to, in a way, it’s a way to express your personality in a social setting. In past days you might have done that by having some expensive clothes and that idea of luxury kind of exemplified what you were into. Nowadays it’s more about a realistic base of clothing that doesn’t seem forced. That’s the reality bit. That seems to be more covetable.

The lines between careers and the way people socialize are blurring. I think fashion is also blurring because you’re sort of always working and and always not working for a lot of people.
Exactly, it’s like five o’clock on a Friday and I can’t tell the difference between it being a Friday, a Saturday, or a Wednesday.

Was there something you emphasized with this collection?
That collection is based on this idea of ‘business woman’. I thought the modern working girl exemplified a really cool, quite different from what a mother form the 80s thought what a business woman would have meant.

What drew you to the business woman?
Being born in the 80s and remembering how women were viewed and how office culture seemed to be. At the time, politically, there was awareness about women rights I was just trying to reference, being born in the 80s and aware in 90s, how in 2017 women have a certain empowerment and aesthetic that has naturally occurred throughout time. It should be celebrated that there are really strong women with their own personal style and identity beyond just fashion.

How effective can politics on the runway be and how important is it to be part of that conversation as someone with your position, an influencer?
I think my duty is to represent my ideas within the work. Each designer their own, not everyone. I’m a reactionary designer, I’m inspired by the things around me. What’s going on. That’s where I get ideas from.

I always just told myself that I wasn’t going to work within limits.
Since you are a reactionary designer, do you ever have time to step back and examine that body of work you are creating? Or are you continually moving forward?
Continually moving forward. That’s the best way for me. I’m more interested in the work than talking about it in a weird way, you know. There is so much that I want to do that I’m often thinking about what’s next more so than what just happened.

You’re doing collaborations, you’re doing Off-White, you’re DJ’ing, you’re designing furniture…how do you have time to do all of that? Is it in part the not stepping back, what we were just talking about?
Yeah, you know, there’s a certain pace that I prefer to work at which, I guess, is pretty quick, but it allows for one creative zone to become where I pull from for all the different projects I’m working on. Whether it’s in fashion or furniture or art–it’s the combination of them all that helps me be inspired.

I’m a reactionary designer, I’m inspired by the things around me. What’s going on. That’s where I get ideas from.
It’s no secret that you want to design for a big house. Do you think that pace, that collaborative way you work, the many projects you’re working on–would that have to slow down if you are working for a big house?
I’m not so positive, to each his own. My ambition to work at a house is just a figurative goal. I feel like there’s a new generation that is interested in luxury products and living with art and any institution like that you need someone to steer the ship and creative direct that energy. Using my own projects to exercise and test out different ideas, it’s like my resume is a 3D brand, instead of just being on a 2D piece of paper. It’s a very realistic measure of these ideas and how I make decisions and how the personal projects of art and design meld with product and branding and having a halo of energy around it all at the same time. All I do is look at it as a young career in design with the goals of leaving an impact of culture.
What’s the metric you measure success by since you’re doing so much or is that not even part of the equation?
That’s funny. I’m often doing two things at once. When you said the word success it didn’t even catch me.

Are you working on something right now while we are on the phone?
Yeah two things. I’m signing sixteen pairs of Nikes, or maybe like twenty some pairs of Nikes each hand personalized. I’m doing M.I.A.’s pair right now and Charlotte Stockdale’s. These shoes I designed, every pair that put out I’m personally drawing on the whole shoe. It takes a long time.

So you’re a multi-tasker, that’s not in question.
That’s how I roll.

You have an upcoming, upcoming as in 2019, a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Michael Darling called you a renaissance man. Do you agree and what makes a contemporary renaissance man since everything is often so homogenized now in the world of creativity and inspiration?
When I started working or whatever, I always just told myself that I wasn’t going to work within limits. I didn’t know what a creative career was, I was sort of making it up. I didn’t think it was special to working across many disciplines. I thought that was normal. I think the first definition of an architect, which was my first school, is that you would apply a bunch of different trades into one kind of expression. I wanted to apply that theology to different product.

Since you studied engineering and architecture, and now many things, what’s the most challenging thing you would ever want to design? Anything specific?
For me, I don’t know. I want to design an airline. The branding for a whole airline maybe.

When I started out I was more interested in starting a brand than a clothing label.
I’ve noticed that the branding has gotten more sophisticated in the past few collections, whereas it was kind of statement making when you first started out. It that something you are making you a specific effort towards or has something changed?
That’s probably something I do more during the day more than anything else. When I started out I was more interested in starting a brand than a clothing label. I realized that’s what a clothing label is. That’s what brands are: Coca Cola, McDonalds, it’s not only the product, it’s the halo of the product. I come from a creative direction place that thinks about those thing all the way through.

I see Off-White on the streets all the time. Not as much with brands in a similar stage. Off-White appears a bit more ubiquitous.
It’s been a focus. When you say fashion label, most times people neglect the five or six pillars that it needs to stand on to be a brand brand. It’s a full time job. The team that I have is fine-tuned to get the vision out. I’m happy with the evolution of the idea.

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