Off-White: NYC '80s art meets decrepit dorm
Virgil Abloh keeps on getting better. His latest show and collection was a truly impressive statement, mashing up 1980s New York street and gallery art – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Futura - with college dorm-room, derelict dude style.
The American designer entitled the show Plastic, just like the see-through 45-record-sized, see-through invite, a clear reference to fashion’s newly discovered environmental consciousness.
Abloh certainly knows how to build a great set: creating a field of carnations – “to add a certain tranquility” – and raw compressed board bleacher seating underneath the soaring glass roof of the 19th century French market, Carreau du Temple.
His opening looks had a whole student, backpacking, hiking-out-west feel to them, though made in recycled plastic for spring 2020. Talk about concise image making – like the zipped rain-proof poncho done in see-through plastic with a chain mail pattern finished with sketches; or the nuclear power plant technician jump suits with a giant 'Off' on the back; or the shaggy abstract Sioux blanket-shawls worn over nylon track pants. All jazzed up with his signature four-arrow logo; and anchored by a new hiking boot that seems certain to be an immense commercial success.
For evening and after hours Abloh really hit his stride – jackets and suits and tops in huge jolts of graffiti abstraction; lower Manhattan street-art meeting Paris poise. All watched over by a diabolic high-tech statue by Futura. Those of us who lived through the halcyon explosion of art in the Lower East Side and Tribeca four decades could only look on in admiration. A show that climaxed with several men and with four women’s looks, all with Futura imagery, most notably Gigi Hadid in a graffiti ensemble, before the entire cast marched down the meadow of carnations.
“Futura 2000, Lenny McGurr, all his paintings from the '80s. It’s a school of artists doing shows in Downtown New York. Obviously, we’ve seen their trajectory be revered. But Futura was important to foundation of street-wear, before it was know to the masses,” argued Abloh.
And, quite right too.
“When it comes to plastic, the first step is understanding this unique property and how it can be recycled. Adding value by making it multiple-use. I went to a school in Madison Wisconsin, with huge environmental studies and course work. And, I would never have thought when I was a sophomore that that knowledge would be useful to my fashion design,” explained Virgil.
Backstage there was the usual post-show Off-White usual pandemonium of admirers, rappers, artists and fellow designers, notably Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.
“I thought it was amazing. The thing about Virgil is that he knows his community; and he designs for all these young people who want to be creative. So when they actually buy something by Off-White they feel they are part of this great community. I think that’s what all designers try to do these days, but Virgil does it nearly better than nearly anyone,” said Rousteing, nodding towards several fans in Off-White sneakers with their telltale plastic fasteners.
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