Off-White: Virgil no-show at Pompidou
It is hard to imagine a more contemporary designer than Virgil Abloh, who staged his latest show inside France’s greatest temple to contemporary art, the Pompidou Centre. But then was nowhere to be seen.
Earlier this month, Abloh said he was scaling back his efforts after medical advice. The designer and DJ has two competing jobs – at Off-White and Louis Vuitton.
The decision comes in the wake of the acquisition of the Italian fashion group New Guards – of which Off-White is the most valuable asset for the astronomical sum of $675 million by Farfetch. Which caused the etailer’s share to collapse by 40%.
However, informed sources in Milan suggest another reason for Abloh’s fatigue. New Guard Group is believed to hold a 25-year license to Off-White, which was part of the Farfetch deal, whereas the actual brand name, Off-White, which the designer controls, was not. Meaning, Abloh rather remarkably did not benefit at all financially from this much-ballyhooed acquisition.
That said, many observers might quibble about the range of Abloh’s talent in terms of draping or cutting fabric. But as a man of ideas, most especially of images that resonate with the general public, he has no real rival today.
Take one item that the vast majority of women have very few of in their wardrobe – the ball gown, which Virgil send out open at the back, flowing to the ground and in parachute nylon. He has more or less reinvented it as a cool category.
The French have a philosophical school of thought called semiotics – the study of signs, allegories, analogies, metaphors and above all signifiers.
Well, no designer today has more signifiers than Abloh. Who has an uncanny ability to dream up eye-catching script and concepts.
Take his wedges in either seaweed-like faux-fur straps or in stiff leather with cut outs; or his triangular earrings or above all, his latest bags riddled with three-inch-wide holes. Above all, his latest holster belts with side pockets, which his expensive cast – that included Gigi and Bella Hadid – wore with such pride. And that will all ignite huge trends.
But best of all were the simple white cotton tanks, just a little sheer, with cut-out sides and finished at the neckline with the word Off. A deceptively simple idea that looked just perfect.
Simple cotton dresses cut with a faintly military collar and trim, worn by models with techy aviator glasses; natty micro fiber hooded raingear that finished at the calf; or spry leather pants – again with holes at the hip – tied at the ankle – were all highly flattering. And many of them finished with exterior texts after the logo, Off-White by Virgil Abloh.
In a very real sense, Virgil has somehow or other rendered a whole gang of purportedly more skilled Parisian designers – Nicolas, Julien and Natacha to name a few – as, well, old-fashioned. His shows and clothes and attitude is so much more now.
Pre-show, a female voice boomed out of the loudspeaker referencing Alvin Ailey and speaking of “Avatars of human creativity,” which is not a bad way of describing Abloh. But, the question remained, in the wake of this show – where is Virgil?
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