Virgil Abloh was fashion’s most frequent flyer, a multi-hyphenate creative director, DJ, architect, serial collaborator, and amplifier for the voices of the Black community. The man was not earthbound. So it makes a sort of sense that since his sudden passing last November we’ve been visited by a drone kite and runway angels.
After two tributes to Abloh at Louis Vuitton—the first in Miami just two days after he died and the second here in Paris last month—this posthumous Off-White show registered more as a celebration. A ride on “Spaceship Earth,” as it was called. Among the passengers: Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, Idris and Sabrina Elba, Pharrell Williams and his family, the CEOs of Louis Vuitton and New Guards Group, and a who’s who of designers including Jonathan Anderson, Olivier Rousteing, Matthew Williams, Guram Gvasalia, and Jerry Lorenzo.
The spaceship metaphor worked in more ways than one. This show included not just Off-White’s fall 2022 ready-to-wear collection, but also a new high fashion line (haute couture without the haute couture appellation) “designed by Virgil and completed by the creative teams and collaborators with whom he worked,” the show program explained. Abloh presented his fall 2021 collection during the Paris haute couture shows last July. At the time he said, “I get frustrated if I don’t feel an evolution, and the message becomes monotonous.” In retrospect, he may have been laying the groundwork for this new discipline.
But first up was the ready-to-wear. The show opened with snippets from an interview Pharrell Williams did in 2020. “Share the codes… share the cheat codes. A lot of us had to figure it out ourselves… that’s where we go wrong,” he said. “The more of us that learn the codes, the stronger we are.” Arguably, code sharing was what went down on the runway, a sort of lesson in Abloh-isms from elevated hoodies to the mad pockets of his cargo gear to the mid-layer garments that made such waves on the red carpet to letterman jackets to the “quotes” branding he was so famous for. Here he saved his biggest statement for a pair of white flags printed with the phrase, “Question Everything.”
And why not launch couture? Abloh wasn’t at a loss for ideas, as the extensive show program reminded us. Each of the 28 high fashion looks was extensively annotated, only not with the number of hours for this embroidery or that handmade veil or train, but with little backstories. Which is far more meaningful. There was an ode to his friend Sarah Jessica Parker—The Carrie B.—complete with an enormous shopping bag. There was a self-portrait—The Verg—with an oversized jacket, baseball cap, sneakers, and sunglasses. There was a never worn 2020 Met Gala dress for Kylie Jenner. And there was a more serious message, it would seem, about the health struggle Abloh kept so intensely private, in Cindy Crawford’s two handbags: one printed with MORE LIFE and another full of red and white pill capsules. The beats were provided by the DJ Jeff Mills, who, it can’t be any coincidence, is known as The Wizard (both The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz were among Alboh’s references at Louis Vuitton).
Making good on Pharrell Williams’s point about sharing the codes, Off-White’s parent company New Guards Group streamed tonight’s show in 100 storefronts across Paris installed with TV monitors for the occasion: boutiques, barbershops, pharmacies, etc. At his last show before the pandemic in February 2020 Abloh said, “the ethos of Off-White is it’s not just clothes. My inspiration and motivation is more the humanity level.” Words to live by for whomever takes over the Off-White pilot seat.
|| Vogue.com ||