The World According to Virgil Abloh


What sets Virgil Abloh—designer, DJ, creative director—apart in every busy crowd he runs in is his way of thinking about the world and his meticulously thoughtful approach to his work.

DJ Virgil Abloh attends Paper Magazine, Sprout by HP & DKNY Break The Internet Issue Release.


Let’s recap. In just a single month and some change, Abloh launched The Ten (a limited collection of re-imagined Nike classics), Off Campus (a pop up museum-esque space in NYC and London that featured The Ten and hosted conversations with musicians, designers and other artists), and his Off-White Spring collection (38 looks inspired by Lady Diana that took to the runway in Paris). Then, while much of the fashion industry spent this past weekend catching up on sleep, he flew to LA for the Fashion Tech Forum to talk about his most recent collaboration with IKEA.

Jeff Cavarlho, Henrik Most, and Virgil Abloh on stage at the 4th Annual Fashion Tech Forum Conference in Los Angeles, CA on October 6, 2017.

Graylock/Fashion Tech Forum

But the reason why he moves at hyper-speed has now become clear. What he’s trying to accomplish is much bigger than just a single product or collection. And he’s not just a designer, architect, or D.J. He’s a modern day philosopher and activist, approaching all of his creations—shoes, shirts, chairs, tables—as opportunities to deconstruct the traditional systems and rebuild new ones.

“He’s opinionated and communicates messages in everything he does.”

“He represents a new way of working,” explained Henrik Most, the Creative Leader of IKEA, who had his eye on Abloh for some time before the two made their collaboration official back in June. “He’s not just producing the next thing. He’s opinionated and communicates messages in everything he does.”

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Having arguably more projects than other creatives operating today, he’s waking the world up with these messages through a fresh perspective on designing, creating, thinking, and being. And the world according to Abloh is pretty awesome. Here’s everything I learned from him backstage during his Ten/Off-Campus launch in New York and the thoughts he shared onstage at the Fashion Tech Forum this past Friday.

On why he does it all:

“Long story short, I want to show that young designers can synthesize not only how the economy works behind making and designing products, but that this generation has a lot of ideas that can affect the way that products look. I’m trying to do this on the biggest scale possible.”

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On how he does it all:

“I produce by rapid fire. I produce by always thinking. There’s no vacation. Designers are people that have invented things we cherish. They, I assume, are like this personality. It’s not casual … I do three things at one time.”

“I’m not making images on a mood board of young people and then designing what they look like.”

On his creative process:

“It all happens simultaneously. One thing influences the other. So organizing how the young generation uses music or how they use fashion, Instagram-that whole ecosystem dictates trends, dictates zeitgeist, and I think my methodology is to be one with it. There’s no speculation in the design I’m doing. I’m not making images on a mood board of young people and then designing what they look like. I’m at 3AM DJing and playing the songs that are the rhythm of the night. There’s no lag in-between there. There’s no effort, it’s just how I think and operate.”

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Video by Kevin Lu

On fashion:

“Fashion is what links our generation together. Clothes are a vital necessity. But how we communicate, that is at the hands of designers.”

On the fashion industry:

“It just needs an update. Like an iPhone, if you had the first operating system and time had passed, you’d be missing out on a lot of the same elements that make the same iPhone relevant.”

“You can make the world a better place through design.”

On design:

“I believe that in our modern world design is linked to humanity. That you can make the world a better place through design. If you think about how in this room [we all have] varied opinions, but if we put an object on a table those opinions go away and we just appreciate the object that came from one person.”

“office space”

A post shared by @virgilabloh on

On emotion:

“It’s possible to design [emotion] into an object … I’m not interested in clothing just as clothing but interested in the service it provides to someone as emotional attachment …. The idea is that essentially life is just a collection of objects you can surround yourself with. You know, when you lose a pair of jeans it’s like that affects your emotion …. when you boil it down, your belongings make you feel at home.”

“Irony is our contemporary language to insert knowledge and humor in one.”

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On irony:

“Irony is our contemporary language to insert knowledge and humor in one. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld …. IKEA clothing is the best example. The fact that IKEA, in the last year all of a sudden more than any fashion brand, started this whole DIY culture off of making garments off this IKEA bag.”

Off-White Designer Virgil Abloh and Lenny Kravitz pose backstage at the Off/White show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2018 on September 28, 2017 in Paris, France.


On success:

“I have a different metric system for fulfillment. Mine is the end consumer. The system is just the system, like it’s great and I love it as an understanding of how things work. But for me, it’s a matter of having an engagement and making an interesting product that has layers to it.”

On social media-generated hype:

“If you’re following on Insta you’re seeing the errors and non-perfectionism [of a product’s development] but then you see the end product later and you get an appreciation that starts after the marketing campaign.”

“I think this is the new standard. That’s my whole premise. I want to be active in defining that.”

On one lesson we should learn from him:

“That there’s credibility and longevity built in this way of thinking – I think that the way we premise this new era of design, this new feeling of creative director will trickle down to new results and new open spaces. I think this is the new standard. That’s my whole premise. I want to be active in defining that.”

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