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Let me introduce myself, I am Olivia and I am your stereotypical Zara girl – defined by my love for heeled boots, long blazers and cute headbands. So why is it that I would now consider wearing a streetwear brand? The answer lies with the innovator known as Virgil Abloh, an American designer who has revolutionised the streetwear market. 

Who is Virgil Abloh?

Abloh is a man of many talents, from a stylist to a DJ, he came to prominence when he was appointed as Kanye West’s creative director. Born in 1980 to parents of Ghanaian descent, he grew up in Chicago, but later moved to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. After graduating and working as an architect, he decided to pursue a love for fashion, founding a menswear boutique in his home of Chicago. It was here that he put himself on the map and was noticed by Kanye West’s label. Abloh was placed in charge of stage shows and concert merchandise, but he didn’t stop there. 

Image source – Shutterstock

With newfound knowledge and determination, Abloh launched Pyrex Vision – using old Champion t-shirts and Ralph Lauren dead stock as the basis for his designs. After Pyrex Vision shuttered in 2013, he launched Off-White and that’s when his innovation really began to soar. Abloh defined Off-White as the gray area between black and white as the color Off-White.” – he acted as a medium between art, culture and fashion. People who stereotypically shouldn’t be allowed to work in fashion now did, and Off-White spoke for them.

Image source – Shutterstock

Off-White and Louis Vuitton 

Off-White’s backdrop of the fashion capital of Milan shaped the brand’s creative direction. The focus on quality but also design is arguably the reason for success. The brand cleverly marries together streetwear (seen in its unique, loud designs) but maintains a luxury feel, fighting for consumer investment. When other brands were soul-searching, Abloh stuck to the basics and reaped the reward. The guts behind the simple item labelling as Off-White branding, for instance “iPhone Case” and “For Money” (see below) illustrates Abloh’s ability to take risks. Off-White has been endorsed by big players in the music world, from Jay-Z to ASAP Rocky and Rihanna just to name a few. Off-White was even a finalist for the LVMH Prize – not bad from a kid who grew up from humble roots in Chicago. 

Image source – Off-White.com

What shocks me the most about Abloh is his awareness of marketing. In 2016, he opened a popup store in Tokyo, giving away Off-White branded cups that could be further distributed and sold, spreading the word about Off-White. This innovation challenges the archaic luxury fashion sector and kickstarted a need for change.

Image source – grailed.com

Abloh is special, he is able to adapt to cater for a range of markets, which may answer why I would consider teaming my love for minimalist fashion with a statement piece of Off-White. This unique talent landed Abloh as Louis Vuitton’s artistic director in 2018. His first show held at the Palais Royal in Paris was a huge success, and it couldn’t have been more identifiably Abloh – the rainbow runway suited his debut perfectly. Kanye West joined a wealth of fashion heavyweights in the runway audience, in the privileged position of witnessing Abloh revolutionise fashion even further. 

Recent Off-White collaborations such as the homeware range released in Ikea again, highlight Abloh’s diversity and talent. Off-White is now not only streetwear, it’s for the masses. This is why Off-White springs to mind when I consider influential brands of the 21st century. 

Image source – Shutterstock

Virgil Abloh said in 2007 I am all about championing this new era of designers becoming the new rock stars,” and I think we can all agree that he has done just that. From a humble start, Abloh has achieved greatness, and his story makes me love his brand even more. When you are struggling to motivate yourself, or wondering whether you are making the right decisions, think of Virgil Abloh. Imagine if he had stayed as an architect, the fashion landscape would look completely different. If he can do it, you can too.

Olivia x