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The remarkable life of Virgil Abloh

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For the great mathematician, there is always a cardinal subject, a main concern around which all other interests revolve. For fashion designer Virgil Abloh, the great thinker of his cohort, who died Sunday of a rare heart cancer, offensively too young, the center was architecture. He studied architecture and the training never really left him, although he ventured into other arts. Abloh’s thinking was organizational, spatial, and incredibly high. He longed to build a finely structured life for his muse, the young black man. Abloh designed not only this man’s clothes but also his shoes, the music he listened to to get ready for the work day, the furniture he looked at before leaving for said work day, the brilliant vernacular that he used in his speech, the high concept museum exhibition during which he was able to practice this speech. At forty-one, Abloh has done all of this already, and so the question that crosses the minds of his grieving people, whose lives have been literally imprinted with the figment of his imagination, is: What was the next step? ?

A Western ideal of domination is neatly grafted onto Abloh’s remarkable life, if you need it. Pop culture-obsessed Ghanaian immigrant son in Rockford, Ill. Has made his way through streetwear to one of fashion’s highest peaks, artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton and took all of his boys with him. Following his death, his main identifier is that he was only the third black man to run a major French fashion house. But his ancestry was significant in part because he dispensed with the fixity of ancestry. LVMH saw him as the key ambassador of a clientele he had previously shunned and now desired, but Abloh saw himself as a lover of grown-up children, a rewriter of our notions of luxury, a true believer in the dreams of youth. His zeal for polishing a glittery harness or punctuating a puffy figure with the brutality of a pair of sneakers was equal to his zeal for an impromptu DJ party in Paris, New York or Chicago. Her presence pushed, or forced, the fashion industry to accept values ​​it had dismissed as unserious: seriousness, excitement, gullibility, love. What could be more serious than love?

Lots of things about Abloh’s person, his size; his tendency to speak in full, gnarled paragraphs; his cultivated gait was striking, but nothing so much as his temperament. He was extremely balanced, placid. When he entered the booming internet notoriety over fifteen years ago, his personality, unlike that of his then boss, Kanye West, made it a compelling story. West was the genius swagger, the man with plans to become a new-age Walt Disney; Abloh, its creative director, was the wise consigliere, making the plans concrete. It meant album cover design, styling, art direction. Abloh is probably the person most responsible for the prevalence of the nebulous profession of creative director.

But what West and Abloh, along with their fellow Chicago associates, ultimately craved was to get into fashion; these are the children who developed their personal style in the era of logo-mania. Conquer is the verb that is often used to describe their rise in the industry, possibly due to their race and due to West’s passionate rhetoric. However, it is revisionist to present these early years as a storm. The two internees at Fendi. They absorbed the archives. They were respectful. Even during the crash of the shows in Paris at the end of the years, the clan was covered with the monograms of the houses.

Ironically, clothes weren’t always the main thing. Abloh was concerned with philosophy and critical theory. Pyrex Vision, his first foray into clothing that he launched in New York, in 2012 was a Duchampian experience, he would later argue. He took animal corpses, oversized Ralph Lauren flannels, and silkscreened 23, Michael Jordans issue, on them. Early reviews called him a joker, forgetting the terrorist impulse of Lauren himself, a Jewish remixer of the Wasp wardrobe. Even savvy streetwear scholars scoffed at Pyrex, and later, Off-White, the Abloh fashion house founded in 2013. Its daring, embrace of humor and irony, exposed a streak of conservatism. latent across the industry of a service, whatever you may have. thought of rugby shirts or legendary quotes. Historically, men’s haute couture has been separated from the rest of cultural gender obsessions, such as sports and rap. Abloh made the connection between the zones. Now virtually all men’s clothing brands are following his lead. For many men, Ablohs’ designs may have been the primary way they felt comfortable in pursuit of beauty.

Of all the commercial arts, fashion demands the highest suspension of disbelief from its audience. How many Vogue Runway devotees will ever touch the hem of the clothes they’ve memorized? Abloh highlighted the contradictions and ironies of commercialism, but also the ethics of sampling, which he borrowed not only from more captivating areas such as Duchamp and Warhol, but also from hip-hop, the lingua franca of our era. He made the little drama of putting on a hoodie, or drinking from a bottle of Evian water, or fiddling with a carpet. IKEAall mischievously carrying recognizable elements of its graphic design, a touch of the most interesting. It is perhaps its omnipresence that has led it to be, at times, misinterpreted. And yet, there was a cheerfulness about Abloh that the critical fashion establishment has learned to respect, even if the clothes don’t meet his tastes. Abloh wasn’t for everyone, he especially wasn’t for the cynics. who was it for? The fans. The self-taught. The upstarts and the obsessive. There is a group of designers who can be indexed for a true prodigy in terms of craftsmanship. What Abloh achieved was something strange, and yet just as undeniable: the saga of millennial culture cannot be told without him.

Abloh worked tirelessly, like it was an addiction. He was known to be in two or even three cities on the same calendar day, and sometimes those cities were on different continents. He was also the older brother of a generation of couriers, djs, concept artists, etc. I only got to know him in the weird and tense way a journalist knows his subject, having featured it for this magazine, in 2019. Within two hours, we traveled from his Off-White studio to his Louis Vuitton office, at the site of his upcoming art exhibition, at the Tuileries Gardens, where an autumn-winter collection of Louis Vuitton men’s clothing was being designed and curated. Louis Vuitton’s works hinted at pure pop culture, The Wiz, Michael Jackson, the list goes on. To enter these places, we tried to take back lanes. He was as famous as any of the musicians he dressed; crowds, composed mainly of young men, pressed him wherever he went. They understood each other. There is a certain type of nostalgia experienced by the child that is often seen as the blind hypebeast. Abloh understood this desire because he never let go of it, no matter how successful he was.


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