2024-04-13
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Off-White: The Revolution from the Underground

Let's find out together the world of Off-White and who is behind the streetwear brand that has managed to get to the top of high fashion.

Off-White: The Revolution from the Underground
Photo credit: Virgil Instagram

In 2013, Off-White was born as a creative enterprise that merges a wide range of worlds and disciplines under the revolutionary and experimental leadership of Virgil Abloh. Abloh’s visionary approach to fashion is intertwined with music, art, architecture and many other forms of expression, defining Off-White as a multidisciplinary space where high fashion merges with the concept of youth culture and contemporary street.

Virgil was here

Use your personal vocabulary to generate a multidisciplinary tornado

Virgil Abloh

To know Off-White’s identity, we need to know Abloh’s point of view with which he represents a generation, taking it to the most prestigious realities of high fashion.

off-white | shoestechnologies
Credit: virgilabloh

There are few people who have managed to revolutionize fashion like Virgil Abloh by bringing streetwear to  become a reality for everyone, thanks to his out-of-the-box vision and his communication and creative skills.

Virgil was born  in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois, to a Ghanaian family.

He graduated in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin and then obtained a master’s degree in architecture; it was during these years as a student that he met a decisive figure for his career and success: Kanye West.

The two began to share their creative ideas during an internship at Fendi in Rome, which led Abloh to develop his skills as a designer and to get closer to the world of music, of which he was a great fan.

This training led him in 2012 to launch his first signature: Pyrex Vision.

Inspired by Virgil’s stage name as a DJ  and his relentless determination in the fashion world, Pyrex Vision was born with a well-defined concept: to convey his ideas through tangible materials. For this reason, Virgil began buying Ralph Lauren flannel shirts for $40 and then customized them with simple text and numbers, reselling them for an approximate price of $550.

Of course, this approach drew strong criticism, but it represented the first clear example of how Virgil managed to redefine the concept of high fashion and streetwear. This idea, although controversial, quickly became a benchmark for numerous other brands, turning into a genuine cultural movement.

Off-White: from birth to evolution

Despite its revolutionary ideas, Pyrex Vision was short-lived. Only a year after its creation, the brand was not definitively eliminated, but underwent an evolution by becoming part of the New Guards Group with the now legendary name of Off-White.

The success of this new adventure can be attributed to the fact that Virgil has managed to merge all his influences and ambitions. From streetwear to music, architecture to design, Off-White has emerged as that thin line between black and white, uniting seemingly different worlds with elements that define a contemporary view of reality.

Off-White: The Revolution from the Underground
Cross arrows
Credit: virgilabloh

The quotation marks, the Cross arrows,  the stripes, the sweaters with prints of Caravaggio’s paintingsare just some of the apparently simple elements used by Virgil to create an identity that has exerted a considerable influence not only in the world of fashion, but also among young people and street culture. This has allowed him to gain more and more space in the panorama of the giants of high fashion.

Thanks to him and Off-White, underground culture and street style have attracted more and more interest from the public.

But how?

Donda Project

The friendship between Virgil and Kanye West also proved fruitful on a professional level when, in 2010, the paths of the two artists crossed again. That year, Abloh took on the role  of creative director of Donda, Ye’s creative agency.

Virgil’s unique vision led him to be involved in  the  Chicago rapper’s major musical projects, such as “808s & Heartbreak,” “My Beautiful Dark Fantasy,” “Watch the Throne,” and many others. Until then, most of the singers’ albums had the main purpose of highlighting their music exclusively, but with Virgil the situation changed radically.

Covers, booklets and even CDs began to take on more and more importance, especially thanks to the attention to detail and visual impact.

Collab with Ikea

Being a great fan of industrial design and architecture, Virgil demonstrated with concrete projects that he did not limit his vision and ideas to clothing, as he did in 2019 with the collaboration with Ikea, adding an artistic dimension to common objects.

The huge success and rapid sell-out of all the products has been belittled by many as simply caused by the hype of young people towards Abloh and Off-White. Virgil’s real merit was precisely this: attracting his audience to common objects thanks to  the addition of artistic references or minimal elements, made common thanks to extremely effective communication.

The ethos of the collection is to add an artistic quality to anonymous objects.

Virgil Abloh | credit: Ikea website

The Ten

The 3% rule is an idea that applies in many fields, including fashion, and we could define it as a philosophy behind Off-White’s success.

Virgil was adamant that it was possible to create something completely new by changing only 3% of its essence. Let’s take a sneaker for example. With small changes and tricks it can become a new and original product, as in the case of the “The Ten” series by Off-White.

The Ten consisted  of reimagining some of Nike’s most iconic sneaker models, undoubtedly establishing itself as the project that managed to mark the  most important turning point in Abloh’s career.

The launch of the collaboration was an unprecedented success, not only because the limited-edition sneakers sold out quickly, but above all because they gave the “sneaker” a new meaning, becoming an object of desire for many young people of the new generations.

The cult of footwear was obviously nothing new, nor was the popularity of models such as the Air Jordan 1 or the Air Force 1, but what Virgil managed to do together with Off-White was to transform the concept of sneakers into a social and cultural phenomenon that had never been seen before. Some of the models included in this project are, in addition to the two mentioned above,  the Blazer Mid,  the Air Max 90 and 97 and the Air Presto.  

off-white | shoestechnologies
Sneakers Blazer Mid Nike x Off-White
Photo credit: farfetch

The addition of simple lyrics and a banal zip tie have become elements that encompass an entire artistic, cultural and stylistic movement born from the underground and the street, to inspire and revolutionize the concept of style, especially for the new generations.

The post Virgil era

Sadly, on November 28, 2021, Virgil, without making the news public, left us at the age of only 41 due to a very rare form of cancer that he had been diagnosed with in 2019. In May 2022, Ibrahim Kamara was appointed as the new creative director of Off-White.

Who is this new face?

Ibrahim is a young designer, born in the 90s, who has long been linked to the figure of Virgil and has always been a designer in great demand for his sensitive eye and personal touch, also working for names such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Dior.

On that November day, the world of fashion and the new generations lost an emblematic figure who completely redefined the concept of “creating”, managing to find the right balance between streetwear and high fashion.

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