37 year old Virgil Abloh is old enough to know better and young enough to still try that shit.
It’s the process.
His ancestry is as Ghanaian as our former World Cup foe, but he’s also as Chi Town as they come. Abloh, a native of Rockford, Illinois, he grew up in the shadows of the Windy City and then went to college at University of Wisconsin, where he got a degree in Architecture and civil engineering. If nothing else, it more or less just affirmed he was a visionary.
Unlike most of the American 30 something creatives, Virgil is using his degree. The laymen wouldn’t assume so. Let me over explain for said layman. He’s the architect of civil engineering in culture. Period.
Since 2011 he’s been building the cultural metro we operate in.
In 2011 he was the creative mind behind Kanye and Jay Z’s seminal “Watch The Throne” – a record so big it defied genre and became somewhat of a rock opera, a “We Are The Champions” in post a Freddie Mercury world.
WTT was more Vatican than XXL. It didn’t give a shit about the fans. It aimed at the ceiling and took the fans with it. Virgil envisioned that.
Then, Vigil envisioned the look book for it, using Pyrex as the wardrobe for the wave. The streets went nuts, sure – but who cares. The streets go nuts for a shit mixtape from some asshat who sounds like a fringe 90’s Harlem rapper from the UK that’s supposed to be the next (insert big name here). Budgets win battles in our world. But substance, vision, lux et veritas, sustains. The latter is what Virgil got that most missed.
Kanye did his part on Zane Lowe and aimed right at the old guard in Europe. People laughed at leather joggers. Then people went out and spent real fucking bread on leather joggers. Kanye said he was a genius. Half the people laughed. The other half knew he was right. He was part Warhol and part Pollock, part shy and addicted Basquiat and part Haring, drawing big ass dicks on the wall just cuz he could. Look at this thing.
It doesn’t matter what you or I think. It matters what culture did. Street and luxury combined. Helmut Lang and Rick Owen were all of a sudden not only known, but jocked, by gangsters from 125th. They turned the train station jump by Popeyes and the old Uptown Liquor Mart into fucking Milan. Culture collided as a beautiful contradiction.
Virgil then folded Pyrex. He started working with other Dj’s and rappers and creatives and crafted BEEN TRILL. Again the market responded. When you have the juice, the willows bend to your whim. The difference was this wasn’t some dumb ass street shit. This wasn’t some accidental lighting in the bottle. This was well crafted. This was well read. This wasn’t Hollywood Squares, it was Jeopardy. The shift was happening.
Culture started to shape itself differently at that point. Art galleries mattered. MoMa mattered. TED talks mattered. Pyrex was used to cook crack in my neighborhood growing up, just like it had in the Chi, LA, the DMV and The A. Crack all of a sudden had a much broader meaning at runway shows. I heard an much older, whiter, and gayer fashion writer in NYC refer to an old Gorgio Beverly Hills piece as “Pure crack.” The old guard in fashion were adopting what most thought they’d never. Real change is when even the old starts to look like the new.
The youth want mirrors, but the grown ups want art.
As a former skate kid, and a still Hiphop artist and creative urban polymath, I know what a brand like Supreme means. I remember Team Supreme in the 90s. I remember CCS. I remember The Roots and punk and hardcore and I remember being fucking enamored of how Supreme was some dope shit that was for me. I never in a million years thought Louis Vuitton would be working with dudes from the movie KIDS. Guess what, I’m not mad either. I’m fucking proud.
In a non linear way, Virgil had a lot to do with that. Kanye was making high art and Virgil was preaching the gospel.
Virgil created OFF WHITE and the world blew over.
It wasn’t some spur of the moment trend. It had cultural legs. You saw both American VCs and Premier league soccer stars rocking it. Paris Fashion Week championed it.
“What Virgil does really well is cross-platform messaging. He realizes he is his brand and it’s in everything he does, from his DJ name being Flat White, to wearing his products in public and connecting with young influencers who also wear his product,” says Jian DeLeon, senior menswear editor at WGSN. “In addition to being inspired by youth culture, he remains an active part of it. Whereas Kanye West said ‘Listen to the kids,’ Virgil is actually out there with them.”
The OFF WHITE and Nike Collab Wanderset brings to you is more than a sneaker. It’s a culture capsule. It’s for those that get it. And for those that will continue to. It’s for the kids who grew up on decks and in cyphers, for those that didn’t do the college thing, because when we tagged walls it wasn’t an act of crime and ruin, it was an act of re-creation.
At the end of the day, when all the engrained horse shit and conditioning and politics and religiosity subsides, God is creation. And the real meaning of life just may Be to leave the planet better than we found it.
Virgil isn’t a God. But Gods spirit is for sure in him. The world is just a canvas we can repaint. Right now, the main color just happens to be Off White.