VIR­GIL ABLOH is noth­ing like you would ex­pect, and yet ev­ery­thing you would ex­pect

#Legend - - Reveal / The Face -

W H E T H E R A S A N ar­chi­tect, DJ, fur­ni­ture maker, fash­ion de­signer or col­lab­o­ra­tor with Kanye West, Vir­gil Abloh has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing light years ahead of the pack in his aes­thetic and cul­tural in­flu­ence. Abloh's in­flu­ence is per­va­sive. One of its lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tions is his new Off-White c/o Vir­gil Abloh shop at 9 Queen's Road, Central.

The al­chemist of re­tail­ing de­signed the in­te­rior him­self. Abloh chic and Abloh cool per­vade the 764 square feet of space, split be­tween two floors. Con­trast­ing ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments and colours punc­tu­ate the space. The main char­ac­ter­is­tic of the ground floor is bare con­crete from floor to ceil­ing, en­livened by plants, many flow­er­ing. The up­per floor has a ceil­ing dec­o­rated with in­ter­lac­ing black metal rods, which give the im­pres­sion of space. The fix­tures and fit­tings are golden in colour.

On the racks, the menswear in­cludes T-shirts, sweaters, hood­ies, shirts, jeans, back­packs and socks. For the ladies, sweat­shirt dresses and denim shorts are prom­i­nent. In keep­ing with the uni­sex chic of the Abloh brand, black is the pre­dom­i­nant colour, set off by eye-catch­ing touches of white, the Off-White mono­gram and the Off-White ar­rows mo­tif.

The Abloh spring/sum­mer menswear col­lec­tion is en­ti­tled Mir­ror, Mir­ror. Di­ag­o­nal stripes stand out. Liam Gal­lagher, lead singer of the rock band Oa­sis, in­spired Abloh's col­lab­o­ra­tion on the col­lec­tion with nos­tal­giain­duc­ing sports­wear brand Um­bro. The col­lec­tion in­cludes tar­tan shirts with patch­work; sporty, long-sleeved tops; and colour­ful col­lage work by artist Bren­dan Fowler on hooded sweat­shirts and jack­ets.

The Busi­ness Woman col­lec­tion in the shop is sur­pris­ing, lack­ing even

a hint of uni­sex. The col­lec­tion has ruf­fles and pleats, off-the-shoul­der and high-waisted pieces in eye-catch­ing di­ag­o­nal stripes and em­broi­dery. Among the ac­ces­sories is a cap bear­ing a gun mo­tif. A flounced denim jacket with straps on the back is an at­ten­tion-get­ter.

Abloh him­self was pre­oc­cu­pied with his phone while #leg­end was tour­ing his shop, and he apol­o­gises as he joins us. “I'm on my phone all the time,” he says. We ask who he fol­lows. “My so­cial feed can't be scaled down to 10,” he says. “I need thou­sands of ac­counts to fol­low. I have, like 4,000.”

This is a de­signer ca­pa­ble of pre-empt­ing all other aes­thetes, so we ask what ad­vice Abloh would give young de­sign­ers. “There's ob­vi­ously hard work,” he says. “With­out it, I wouldn't be open­ing a shop next to huge brands like Her­mès and Chanel in Central.” He says he loves enun­ci­at­ing the names of brands. He then says, “Zara” for no other rea­son than he likes say­ing it, be­fore con­tin­u­ing with his ad­vice to young de­sign­ers. “I'd say, just do it. And if I haven't heard of your prod­uct, then you're not do­ing it, you're not mar­ket­ing it right,” he says. “If the prod­uct is good, peo­ple will know about it. Many de­sign­ers don't spend enough time ac­tu­ally de­sign­ing. So there is no ad­vice other than, just do it. Then get

“My so­cial feed can’t be scaled down to 10. I need thou­sands of ac­counts to fol­low. I have, like 4,000”


ad­vice and go from there.”

Abloh is an ac­com­plished ad­viser, and his le­gions of fol­low­ers ap­pear to love the ad­vice he gives. On the Off-White web­site you will find ser­mons by Abloh such as this one: “Ad­vice for young artists: I guess there's a lot of ad­vice I could give. I think the re­ally im­por­tant things to bear in mind are: fo­cus on the work; if you make good work, you'll prob­a­bly be a suc­cess­ful artist. Don't think about any­thing else. Just think about the work. Try and think about the project rather than the fin­ished art­work. So set your­self a project and fo­cus on that. And don't think about a fin­ished art­work. The art­work is the residue of a process, or a project, rather than some­thing that you see and then have to re­alise there­after.”

The ser­mon goes on: “And, yeah, en­joy be­ing an artist. Be­ing an artist is the best life you can have, if you want to be an artist. It's def­i­nitely not for every­body – that's for sure. Be­ing in a stu­dio is not what every­body wants. It's kind of what I want, and what a lot of other peo­ple want. I re­ally en­joy it. But it's not for every­body. Some­times you go to art school and you end up re­al­is­ing you want to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. But it's still sort of art-creative, whether you're a film­maker or mak­ing music or what­ever. You have to find your own way. So don't be afraid to fig­ure it out.”

Abloh stud­ied civil engi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sinMadi­son, and then earned the de­gree of Master of Ar­chi­tec­ture from the Illi­nois In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. He be­gan his ca­reer in as an ar­chi­tect, then served as a creative direc­tor for var­i­ous brands. In due course he un­der­took var­i­ous pop cul­ture projects be­fore set­ting up Off-White in 2013.

“Off-White is in­spired by things you see daily, es­pe­cially by the things I in­ter­acted with since I stud­ied engi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture at univer­sity,” Abloh says. “So the lines are ev­ery­where. You see them on trucks, build­ings, cau­tion tape – and I in­cor­po­rate that in my de­signs.” What about the flow­ers dec­o­rat­ing his shop? “Flow­ers: it's some­thing so cul­tur­ally pop­u­lar, it's some­thing that pre­dates fash­ion it­self. If you look at the past, flo­ral pat­terns were ev­ery­where, and no brand re­ally owns it. So I had my own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of flo­ral pat­terns in Off-White.”

On the Off-White web­site, a short film shows Abloh's men's au­tumn/win­ter 2017 col­lec­tion, called See­ing Things. As the mod­els pa­rade up and down the runway, the com­men­ta­tor says:

“Be­hind this im­age is God. Be­fore it, be­liev­ers close their eyes. They do not need to go on look­ing at it. They know that it marks the place of mean­ing. Now it be­longs to no place, and you can see such an icon in your home. The images come to you, you do not go to them. The days of pil­grim­age are over. It is the im­age of the paint­ing which trav­els now, just as the im­age of me, stand­ing here in this stu­dio, trav­els to you and ap­pears on your screen. The mean­ing of a paint­ing no longer re­sides in its unique painted sur­face, which it is only pos­si­ble to see in one place at one time.”

The com­men­ta­tor per­sists: “Its mean­ing, or a large part of it, has be­come trans­mit­table. It comes to you, this mean­ing, like the news of an event. It has be­come in­for­ma­tion of a sort. The faces of paint­ings be­come mes­sages, pieces of

in­for­ma­tion to be used – even used to per­suade us to help pur­chase more of the orig­i­nals, which these very re­pro­duc­tions have, in many ways, re­placed. But, you may say, orig­i­nal paint­ings are still unique, they look dif­fer­ent from how they look on the tele­vi­sion screen or on post­cards. Re­pro­duc­tions dis­tort. Only a few fac­sim­i­les don't.”

So how does Abloh mea­sure his creative progress? “For me, there is no set way of coming up with things,” he replies, “but I al­ways start with why some­thing needs to be cre­ated. What pur­pose does it serve? It needs to ful­fil a pur­pose other than just it­self. Like, why do peo­ple want this? That's im­por­tant.”

The day Off-White c/o Vir­gil Abloh opened in Central,the me­dia were given a press-kit con­tain­ing a poster and a record­ing of the sound of Hong Kong traf­fic. The poster bears the mes­sage: “There is not a more di­rect way to say, ‘See now, buy now,' than ac­tu­ally do­ing it. The bags hit the shelves and streets the day of the show. You see them, you buy them. They ful­fil your de­sires im­me­di­ately. Fash­ion is al­ways tak­ing some­thing from the streets and the streets are al­ways tak­ing some­thing from fash­ion. In ac­tu­al­ity, there is no di­vi­sion be­tween the ‘Streets' and ‘Fash­ion' anymore.”

It's a big poster. The mes­sage con­tin­ues: “There is also no real di­vi­sion be­tween real and not real. What does this even mean in 2016? We are ba­si­cally stag­ing, sell­ing ‘fake' bags from the street to sell the ‘orig­i­nal' ones in stores. But are they re­ally ‘orig­i­nal' ones in the stores? But are they re­ally ‘orig­i­nal'? As Vir­gil says: ‘There are too many lay­ers to that.' There are many lay­ers and there are also no rules. The world changes too fast. And if you ask, what about the lux­ury? think, what about the lux­ury of buy­ing with­out the re­ceipt?”

Abloh's style is noth­ing if not orig­i­nal. He will con­tinue to set him­self apart from his peers in the fash­ion in­dus­try who like to de­fine things. The de­signer is an all-em­brac­ing aes­thetic oc­to­pus, his ten­ta­cles reach­ing into ev­ery cor­ner of the cul­tural ecosys­tem.“Ev­ery­thing is con­nected to peo­ple. It must al­ways con­nect to peo­ple,” he says, re­sum­ing his pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with his phone.

Creative wun­derkind Vir­gil Abloh in re­pose. Op­po­site: a T-shirt from Abloh’s spring/sum­mer Mir­ror, Mir­ror menswear col­lec­tion

Lat­est looks from Of­fWhite col­lec­tions, some avail­able in the brand’s newly opened store at 9 Queen’s Road, Central in Hong Kong

Be­low and op­po­site: A prophet of all he sur­veys, Abloh shared a press-kit with the me­dia and a poster fea­tur­ing his inim­itable Ablo­hisms

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