Perhaps my fascination with Abloh in many ways, reflects on my own inability to dedicate wholly to one design purpose. Instead of hyperspecialization, Virgil Abloh instead integrates horizontally across the industry spectrum: from his ability to design and construct buildings as both a certified civil engineer and architect, his stringent fashion motifs threaded consistently throughout his high end streetwear brand OFF-WHITE, even to a massive industrial design collaboration with IKEA. Abloh’s significance and relevance is pervasive in design culture as a whole, and has been the host of many featured lectures at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Rhode Island of Design, and Colombia School of Design among many others.
Retail entrance to an OFF-WHITE store in Singapore, taken Sept. 2016.
It's unusual for a member of the design industry to manifest such celebrity status, let alone a status that resonates primarily with youth. It's worth a mention that Abloh was in part, bolstered into a limelight after his role as creative director at DONDA: a design firm headed by Kanye West focusing anywhere from radical stage designs, guerilla marketing, and constructing experimental multi-screen film theatres. Despite parting from DONDA, Abloh's personal interest in youth cultures only blossomed with the international success of OFF-WHITE; an achievement coming just as high-end fashion houses Gucci and Balenciaga took massive share of the young streetwear demographic. Seeking a cut of this shift, Louis Vuitton soon hired Abloh as Creative Director for Mens fashion. Undeterred by streetwear’s glaring integration into high-end fashion, Abloh prides streetwear as the ultimate tool for underprivileged youth designers: screen printing is easy to learn, cheap to mass produce, and versatile as a medium.
One of Abloh’s key philosophies encourage the concept of ‘open-source’ design, a doctrine that exposes a reflection of a products creation process, within its own superficial aesthetics. Alluding to the pockets of air used to cushion impact, Abloh explicitly prints ‘AIR’ on the soles of a Nike design collaboration, while removing opaque side panels off the shoe reveals the white foam it's comprised of; in this way exposing the relative intuitivity of good design. Essentially teaching his customers how to design their own products, Abloh also frequently encourages satire and humor as an ally to his consumerism revolt. After designing an intricately detailed, luxury Persian rug with Ikea, Abloh deliberately defaces his work with the words ‘KEEP OFF’. A statement on designer room furniture, Abloh ironically seeks to mass produce and retail the rug for less than $70USD. Carefully reflecting on the limited resources of young artists, Abloh looks to strip away instead of embellish hoping to encourage consumers the influence they share with mass-consumerism.
My exhibition builds on the idea of exposition, except not of design, but of Abloh himself. This curation continues to focus on Abloh’s personal design philosophy, hopefully lending a more in-depth perspective on his influence.
There is some serious, and enlightening depth to this interview between Thom Bettridge and Virgil Abloh. Touching on the necessity of Abloh’s constant international flights, the concept of streetwear, the influence from his civil engineering and architecture experience and the idea of consumer revolt (I definitely missed a couple); this article satisfyingly walks you through the windows of Abloh’s design philosophy. A must read.
A must-watch for any Abloh fan. A one hour lecture where Abloh shares his design philosophy, his architectural background, and explains and exhibits much of his classified upcoming work.
This is a great review from a ‘critical shopper’. Every retail space for OFF-WHITE typically doubles as an exhibition gallery, an art piece that makes the act of buying OFF-WHITE seem a lot less commercial The artifacts on the walls, the placement of greenery, the attention to sound effects and speaker placement.
From undoubtedly one of my favourite architecture/design publications, this article quickly previews some of Abloh’s upcoming collaborations with IKEA Furniture.
This article is a transcript of Michael Rock’s introduction to Abloh’s lecture at Colombia University Graduate School of Design. Here, we can read about Abloh’s career beginnings from a perspective of a fellow peer, back from when they met in college, all the way to their collaborations today.
FAC references the idea of a celebrity architect- and discusses the ironic existence of ‘architect celebrities’ when the bulk of their work, and architecture at-large, is often collaborative between various institutions and the communities which they serve.