Off-White, On-Point - The Multi-Faceted Brand Shaking Up The Design World

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Entrepreneur, fashion designer, artist, DJ, architect. Just a few of the skills that Virgil Abloh has up his sleeve. The American fashion designer is taking the world by storm, shaking up everything from sneakers to sofas.

He has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection since March 2018, however you may know him for the Milan-based label Off-White. This brand is “embracing the now in a sophisticated manner”, but just where did this brand come from, who is the man behind it and what is he planning to conjure up?

Off-White - The Beginning

Founded in 2012 in Milan, the luxury fashion label has grown and evolved to now have 24 independent stores and be carried by stores including Selfridges and Harrods. The brand is known for its specific style and unique characteristics such as zip ties, yellow industrial belt buckle design, its four-way arrows that create a cross, and perhaps most notable, the use of quotation marks.

The company was first founded under the name ‘PYREX VISION’ which was discarded after criticism over rebranding a classic Ralph Lauren rugby flannel, printing the PYREX brand label on it and reselling with a ‘premium’ price tag. After extreme scrutiny, Virgil founded  ‘Off-White’ as a way to describe the “grey area between black and white as the colour off-white” to the fashion world.

Abloh-Lutely Perfect Partnerships

Off White have joined forces with various brands such as Nike, Levi, Converse, Jimmy Choo, Moncler, Browns, Barneys, Timberland and have even collabed with the likes of ASAP Rocky, Heron Preston and Takashi Murakami. The man behind the brand, Virgil Abloh began his entire career in Chicago street with one single collaboration - a fashion internship at Fendi alongside rapper Kanye West. This initial joint venture kickstarted the whole artistic process of Off-White, and whilst they admitted “We interned at Fendi but we aint do sh*t. We ain’t get to do nothing”, they obviously both saw the potential in their possible creative collaboration.

-“The Ten”

Huge brands have collaborated with Off-White, with one of the most prominent being Nike. In early 2017, the two companies worked together on a project named “The Ten”- a sneaker collection which featured Air Jordans, Converse, Nike Air Max, Nike Air Force One and Nike Blazer shoes. The collection was split into two, with categories of “Revealing” and “Ghosting”.

This ongoing sneaker collaboration initially involved Abloh deconstructing ten iconic Nike silhouettes. They were then broken down and rebuilt with a different design and unique, rearranged components. The collaboration was so successful that it sold out almost instantly, with the shoes becoming one of the most sought after in recent sneaker history. Due to high interest, further additions were added in 2018 and 2019 with endorsements from celebrities and athletes. The shoes which were deconstructed included the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1, Air Presto, Air VaporMax, BlazerMid, Air Max 97, Air Max 90, Zoom Vaporfly SP, Converse Chuck Taylor All Star and React Hyperdunk.

The shoes sold out on all platforms including official Nike online. The shoes have received many positive reviews and were even claimed to be the ‘Collaboration of the decade’. The shoes have even gone one to be resold for a higher amount than the original price - the Air Jordan 1 was sold for more than 10 times the original price. Since its receipt, there have been multiple additions including various colour-ways of the original ten shoes, remodellings with the Museum of Modern Art, a release with the Soccer World Cup and a sponsorship deal with Serena Williams, which you no-doubedtly saw in the press. Numerous new Off White sneakers are being released soon, including the Nike Dunk Low, Nike Vapor Street Pack and a possible rumour of a new Off-White x Air Jordan 5 collaboration.

A first look into Virgil Abloh’s new Vans collaboration has been the talk of many towns lately. Whilst “Blank Canvas” has no official announcement yet, there have been various early sneak peeks. The shoes were first teased in 2017, then they were seen on the runway in Milan, however, were hard to notice due to lighting. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for further information.

Nike Vapor Max Off White
Editorial credit: Shutterstock

-Markerad

It's not just fashion brands that Virgil has teamed up with. He also partnered with Swedish furniture company IKEA to create a collection called Markerad - meaning “clear-cut; crisp; pronounced”. It is set to be released in November this year, so not long to wait. This collection is set to include practical furniture with a mixture of contemporary style. You can expect to usual quotation marks which he says is to represent the detachment from society and social norms.

-Levis

The denim specialist collided with Virgil’s urban label, and, as you’d expect, sparks flew. The designers launched the collab line, Made & Crafted for the Off-white Fall Winter 2016-2017 show which revealed a capsule of twelve pieces - half were unisex.

-Jay-Z & Kanye West

Furniture design, fashion, architecture. Is there anything this man can't do? Well, what about music production? Virgil Abloh is a close associate of some of the music industry's hottest artists, including Jay-Z and Kanye. He was chosen to be the creative director of the two artists joint album ‘Watch the Throne’ in 2011. The album went on to be nominated for Best Recording Package at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.

He has also collaborated with the ballet for costumes on Composer’s holiday, Le Bon Marche to create a pop up cafe, with Timberland to reinvent the iconic boots, Sunglass Hut to create a unisex line, with Byredo to create a line of perfume, hairspray and hand cream and has even brought out his own music single called Orynge. And that's just touching the surface.

The Man Behind The Genius

Abloh was born in 1980 in Illinois to Ghanaian immigrant parents, his mother a seamstress and his father working at a paint company. With the knowledge of artistry and engineering perhaps in his blood, he ended up gaining a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and then went on to receive his Masters in Architecture in 2006.

His first interest in fashion came when he witnessed a building under construction on the University campus designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, which sparked intrigue.

Whilst studying architecture, he also designed t-shirts and contributed to a well-known fashion and design blog - The Brilliance.

After graduating from university he interned at Fendi in the same class as Kanye West, where their work together began. From there, he caught the eye of Louis Vuitton CEO through his unique style. Kanye appointed Virgil the creative director of his creative agency DONDA. Shortly after, Abloh launched his first company Pyrex Vision.  When the company closed down he expressed to the public that it was simply an artistic experiment. In 2013 Abloh founded Off-White in Milan.

There's no questioning that Virgil’s unique style reflects his various interests in art, music, architecture and beyond. His creative brain has led him to take various industries by storm and has now become a household name worldwide. Not many young men can jump from intern to artistic director in such a flash.

Designer Virgil Abloh
Editorial credit:
FashionStock.com / Shutterstock.com

The team at forward2me see plenty of Off White sneakers coming through the warehouse, particularly when Abloh is up to his collaborative tricks. He is in high demand in every circle of the world and in every sector. Abloh’s designs won't be to everyone's taste, but no one can deny that he has a unique flair, bringing some personality, character and buzz to… well, almost every industry. Everyone is watching and waiting for his next move. Are you?

If you are looking for a piece of the action but are struggling to buy any Off White product or collab piece from the UK and Europe, why not check out our pricing to find out how much you could save? We can help you get around the difficulty of any regionally locked releases. Sign up for a free account with us here.