By now you’ve probably caught wind of Raf Simons’ recent less than flattering comments towards Virgil Abloh and his OFF-WHITE label. Months before GQ‘s interview with Simons came out, however, Virgil expressed his appreciation for the veteran designer when talking with Slam Jam Socialism.
“I think the god of design is Raf Simons, and we’re all the after-effects of his earthquake,” Abloh insisted.
Other topics in Slam Jam’s recently-released conversation with Virgil include worthwhile experiences while traveling, his approach to fashion, choosing Milan as his center of operations, and more.
Below we’ve provided some excerpts from the interview, as you can then follow on over to Slam Jam Socialism to dive into the entire piece.
Do travel and physical experiences have an important role in your creative process?
Yes, it’s essential to being in touch with what’s happening. There’re a few styles of design in any culture, like this style of fashion design is a subculture [holding a sneaker in his hands]. It’s important to be a part of the culture. It’s the events like book signings, art shows, and the design of it. It’s the things that you see right in front of it rather than looking at it through the computer. Like those kids in Milan wearing the keychain with the keys on that. For me, if I did that in the collection, it’s because I’m here, not because I saw a trend. I come from ’90s skate culture; you have to be a part of the culture that you’re representing. I think it’s the culture that I enjoy and I also participate in it.
Sounds quite different from the absence equals presence approach we’ve seen – in some cases – across the past decades (eg. Martin Margiela). How do you feel about that?
He’s like a God; he can do whatever he wants. He tells us what to do and leads us with his legacy. The kid thing that I’ve mentioned, and our approach, this is a new genre of design. It’s not to be confused with high fashion. It’s a new hybrid. The style of fashion that I do and that the style of fashion of this new generation is a new version of fashion design. It’s like couture has got the rhythm of a different era, while the rhythm of this era is like everyone’s wearing Levi’s, printed t-shirts. That’s fashion now, but it wasn’t fashion before. The designers from the era before like Margiela, Alaïa, McQueen, that’s a different era, and I think my goal is to embrace the culture of now but also infuse the designers’ nature of the past. It’s culture, but a cultural mix. I think the god of design is Raf Simons, and we’re all the after-effects of his earthquake.
Why did you choose Milan as the base for your design studio and center of operations?
Italy, in general, has a history of making clothing. One thing you realize when you travel around the world is you don’t see the divisions in the world; you just see what people are great at. We all live on this planet; it’s more like a global view rather than a nationalist view. It’s like you buy groceries from a certain grocery store, you go on vacation in certain places in the world because it’s better than going on vacation in shitty places in the world. That line of thinking is how I arrived at the opportunity, but it’s not like I chose Italy, it was because of the existing team. I came here because I liked what they had to offer.
Were there ever moments where you felt it was difficult to create your own identity because of certain celebrity associations?
Yes, but it’s in a way that it’s not even a problem. It’s just the nature of doing creative work. For me Off-White is a project for myself. It’s very much like a very personal art project; it’s not even a clothing brand so much. It’s a container where I can put in all my ideas; they span from fashion to marketing to naming, branding, aesthetic and music. That’s what it is for me; it’s an outlet. By definition, I made it so I can be the decision maker, but I love working collaboratively with everyone. I made a career, up to this point, by working collaboratively with everyone from my brand to a person.