This week in New York City, buzzy downtown retailer Apolis hosted the sophomore edition of its ongoing speaker series by inviting OFF-WHITE’s Virgil Abloh and contemporary artist Tom Sachs to the stage.

The night, moderated by Barneys’ Creative Ambassador Simon Doonan, was billed as a discussion of “how creativity has the unique ability to impact community,” where Abloh and Sachs spent over one and a half hours answering a series of questions submitted by aspiring creatives looking to cut their teeth in the industry.

Here are six career-minded tips we noted from the panel along with a few fun facts you may or may not have known about the two guests. Feel enlightened? Or was it just a waste of scroll-time? Let us know in the comments section.


1. Find your niche.

Virgil Abloh: First you need to find what you want to do and devote your energy to it. Once you find it, get to a place where it proactively keeps burning.

Tom Sachs: Find your corner and keep pecking at it. You’re not going to grow up to be an artist; you either are or you aren’t. If you’re creative, you’re already there. Just keep working.

2. Establish a work ethic.

VA: I’m always putting pressure on myself. I’m always reminding myself of deadlines and that I have expectations to live up to.

TS: I always start working BEFORE I read any news. Do something out instead of taking something in.

3. Don’t let creative blocks hinder your ability to work.

VA: I don’t let anything stop me from working. I’d just die if that were the case.

TS: I simply get back to work, even if the drive isn’t there at that very moment.

Adam Katz Sinding /

4. Criticism is the key to improvement.

VA: Feedback is one of the most important things for creative progression.

TS: Only by failing can you succeed.

5. Don’t worry too much about who will ultimately consume your product.

VA: To me fashion is a joke. Every collection consists of like 200 pieces; that’s over 200 ideas. It’s like a creative equinox, one big art project. It’s a means to paint a bigger picture and send forth a particular message. If it connects with anyone in the end, then great, if not, that’s OK, too.

TS:  The things I make are for the people in my community: friends, studio, family, etc. Propaganda is art in the service of ideas. You can’t control who consumes it and it’s not important if we don’t interpret the end result in the same way.

6. You don’t have to be specialized in one specific thing to be a master at it.

VA: I’m always thinking about a million things at once and always trying to figure out some sort of solution. I half listen and half think, always. I also don’t sleep, I just don’t require a lot of it.

TS: Be tenacious. I’m lucky because I’ve figured out a way to compile all of my average qualities into one.

Thomas Welch /

Fun Facts

What is fashion to you?

VA: A creative playground.

TS: Unnecessary.

What is art to you?

VA: Expensive.

TS: My love.

What’s your favorite inspirational quote?

VA: My memory is really bad, so I can’t recall any off-hand. But I will say that I get inspired just through alcohol-fueled discussions with my friends. Heron [Preston] can drop like six inspirational quotes in one sitting.

TS: “Difficulties are just things to overcome,” by Ernest Shackelton.

Who is Kanye West to you?

VA: A humanitarian.

TS: A rock star.

Why are your clothes so expensive if you say they’re made for the youth? [addressed to Virgil Abloh]

VA: Don’t let ZARA or Uniqlo dictate what the price of fashion should be. That’s McDonald’s. My brand is inspired by the youth but I wouldn’t say that it’s directly made for the youth. I’m fine with that critique.

Wondering if creativity still matters in the age of the personal brand? Find out in our latest podcast.

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America
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