Virgil Abloh is one of the most multi-faceted artists of our time, as an artist and designer who also DJs at festivals. His work spreads from hosting university lectures at Harvard University Graduate School Of Design to working with brands such as evian and IKEA.
Abloh recently announced a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz to create a racecar version of the G-class. He's one of the most successful examples of blurring the boundaries between art and fashion, and his lifestyle and past show how he reached this point of fluidity.
One of the most fascinating traits about Abloh is how much he emphasizes his origins. He started out studying architecture and engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology and began blogging about New York fashion brands selling skate clothing. That propelled him into streetwear culture and made him more focused on fashion rather than architecture.
Abloh’s usage of architecture programs and 3D models made him valuable and well-known with screenprinting in Chicago, and this helped him become introduced to Kanye West in 2007.
West asked Abloh to work as his assistant, and he helped design the album covers for both "Watch the Throne" and "Yeezus." Along with working with West on some of his most influential albums, Abloh was always with West as a creative consultant and was always showcasing new ideas in his circle.
Abloh started the fashion brand Off-White in 2012, and his designs helped blur the perception between graphic T-shirts and designer fashion. Off-White’s distinct focus on morphing luxury high fashion with skate clothing made it accessible for creatives of different backgrounds.
Skateboarders and rappers could wear Off-White and feel comfortable as though it was suited specifically for them. The brand has remained successful despite being expensive and helped turn Abloh into a household name.
Fashion has a notorious reputation for being extremely highbrow and inclusive, but Abloh’s 2017 appointment to be the creative director of Louis Vuitton was celebrated between the streetwear and rap community.
Everyone from Playboi Carti to Anna Wintour was seen congratulating him, and he has the ability to bring together different worlds and put them under one roof. He signified an important change in the direction fashion was heading towards.
Since Abloh became the creative director, he has changed the aspect of Louis Vuitton’s vision towards transparency. He uses his 5.5 million Instagram followers as an audience to talk about his ideas and design making process.
This use of social media works as a powerful branding tool because he does not need to use traditional newspaper publications to cultivate an audience. He makes the creative process incredibly transparent which is unique considering the amount of gatekeeping in the fashion industry.
Abloh has also been known for using creative set pieces and backdrops for Louis Vuitton’s fashion shows. Most brands utilize traditional white runway models and simple backgrounds while making front-row tickets available only for the wealthy elite.
Abloh has made it a mission to always focus on using Black artists and musicians to make his fashion shows both inspiring and unique. For Louis Vuitton’s 2020 Fall/Winter 2019 show, the models wore cloud-inspired attire and designed the runway to resemble the sky based on 1998’s "The Truman Show."
Abloh’s place in the fashion world is an inspiration for anyone who wishes to think outside the box. He has proven that Black creatives belong in spaces typically not meant for them, and his focus on collaboration and transparency makes him a fascinating figure to study and learn from.
Abloh's creations and collaborations are innovative and refreshing, and his social media presence adds dimensions to his humanity. He's constantly breaking boundaries for Black artists and occupies a unique space in every industry he enters. He will undoubtedly continue to innovate and represents the power of not defining yourself by one thing only.