A Spoiled Nation Insider profile into the barrier-breaking black designer who’s ascent to the ‘post-streetwear’ industry has paved the way for millenniums to come.
by Leah Hodges
Renowned artist, architect, fashion designer and millennial Virgil Abloh combined the fields of art, craft and design. Such theories merged with contemporary culture, Abloh’s inter-disciplinary practice is recognised across the globe for his unblemished influence exerted upon 21st century fashion.
“You know who I am most inspired by? That kid that hasn’t had the chance to showcase their brand yet. Those kids motivate the work I do everyday. That’s the muse for me: the next generation. I want my work to inspire people like them.” – Virgil Abloh.
Born 30th September 1980 Rockford, Illinois to immigrated parents living in the United State originally from Ghana, Abloh took an interest in textiles from an early age, cemented by his mother’s profession as a seamstress. Diverting from his initial ‘passion for fashion’ Abloh studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree, later followed by a master’s in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. It wasn’t until a building erected on his University campus designed by architect Rem Koolhas that had aroused Abloh’s interest in fashion and design.
Completing an internship as an architect graduate at Fendi in Rome in 2009, both himself and Kanye West attracted the early adopters of the fashion world with their innovative outlook on apparel.
Underpaid, exploited and disappointed.
The first three words that float around when the discussion of an internship is brought about. It’s a sector that is epitomised as an integral part of the working industry, yet diluted by tasks including coffee runs and photocopying. Starting like the rest of us, that role fell to two West and Abloh, now exceptional names. Two millennials that we can now hardly be able to form any simultaneous parallels between flat whites and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton and founder of fashion house Off-White.
Unlike other competing designers of the same era, the epicentre of Abloh’s focus remained wholly upon artistic influence and experimentation. Having no commercial interests he closed the company after a year and instead founded his own fashion house Off-White, Milan 2013. Most infamous for the Nike X Off-White “The Ten” Jordan 1 collection, that few sneaker releases (if any) are able to compete with the mania that he had the ability to conjure around his release.
Whilst studying architecture the path into the fashion industry may had not been paved for Abloh, but the urban sensibilities that correlate throughout his brainchild Off-White depict a much clearer one. Recognised through graphic detailing, premium fabrication and streamlined staples at the crux of the fashion house as we know it, Abloh offers the likes of genderless luxury streetwear which he later exerted upon the fashion house Louis Vuitton where he became appointed director in 2018.
Renowned as a pioneer of high-end street fashion, or in his own words what he called ‘post-streetwear movement’. His tearing down of the lines between both luxury/streetwear exerted his influence everywhere, from Balenciaga selling puffer jackets, to Dior’s collaboration with Nike on limited Air Jordan’s, to Louis Vuitton partnering with Supreme and to Gucci working alongside Harlem designer Dapper Dan.
From emblematic belts to blindsiding collabs : The 5 pieces that defined Virgil Abloh’s trace on fashion
- Nike X Off-White “The Ten” Jordan 1
- Off-White Industrial Belt
- Yeezus Album Cover
- Louis Vuitton Holographic Duffel Bag
- Pyrex Vision Flannel Shirt
Abloh gained prominence more so in our last decade, with some noting him as the ‘millennial Karl Lagerfeld’ a pioneer in the rise of luxury street apparel. Introducing a new vocabulary to the world of fashion, Abloh saw his chance to participate and make current culture in a way in which brought along with it more excitement than the industry itself.
Still, his influence on fashion is unable to be denied. With the lines between streetwear and luxury apparel blurred, they are now one and the same.
“I don’t believe in art; I believe in artists,” once quipped Abloh’s idol Marcel Duchamp, and to flip that quote you could say the Virgil didn’t just believe in products, but people. If breaking down barriers and blurring norms in the fashion world was the goal, Abloh succeeded – and then some.