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Fashion January, 17 2014

Virgil Abloh Speaks on Kanye West, Building His Brand, Designing Womenswear and More

As many of you know, Kanye West‘s longtime right-hand man Virgil Abloh recently launched his own label Off-White. After a successful first men’s season, with stockists including colette and The Webster Miami, the designer is planning on launching his first womenswear line in February. During Paris Fashion Week, The Cut had the opportunity to speak with Abloh about architecture, building his brand, working with West, and much more. You can read an excerpt from the interview below, while the entire piece can be found here.

Why did you stop doing Pyrex Vision, and launch Off-White? Pyrex was the first vision of the idea but that was more of an art project for me. It was a simple exercise of working with one graphic; I had no intention of starting a label or a fashion brand. I just had this idea and wanted to put it out there. I organized it as a fashion film, with models … and just organizing it in that fashion context helped to grab hold of that culture. But when I looked back, I would never have named a fashion brand [Pyrex] that had to consistently put out new ideas. “Off-White,” to me, is vague and all-encompassing. So the collection starts with canvas, which is the DNA of the brand [gestures to a neutral-colored canvas shirt with a white screen-painted print]. The DNA of the brand is always screen-print on cut and sewn and/or ready-to-wear garments. I’m playing on ideas from my past, my training as an architect.

You studied architecture?
Yes, I have a master’s in architecture. It’s had quite a lot of wide space: I’ve been able to apply things that interested me — and concepts that I learned about — in my current role as a creative director.

Do you think architecture and fashion share similarities?
Yeah, it’s all the same side of the brain. In architecture you have to listen to a client. They might say, In two years time, I’m going to have two kids and I like my morning tea in the sun. Just that simple statement organizes the floor plan … For me, with fashion, I take the same approach. I look at culture and I see what the kids around me are wearing and I see a particular style. I understand the space between fashion and streetwear. The same way architecture tries to fill a void, my goal is to build a brand that’s young, but also a brand that plays between the world of fashion and streetwear. The fashion consumer likes a high-low mix — I want to be a brand that represents that.

You have the title of Kanye West’s creative director. What does that actually mean?
[Laughs] Essentially we’re spent ten years being creative. That is his life goal, he is an artist, and basically I just help him see his vision through.

Is that a full-time role?
Yeah, it can be. That’s the thing about this … for me, this is what I am meant to do for my career. I am fortunate to be able to have a team to help put this together but this is my main focus. I needed this to be the core to the legacy of ideas that I have. This is completely my vision and it’s recurring. It’s daunting, but I like the idea that I kind of just jumped on a treadmill, and that each season there needs to be new ideas.

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