"It’s new territory for designers to come from the place I came from," Virgil Abloh told the press swarming him backstage after his FW16 show in Paris. That place is Chicago, Illinois - not exactly a hotbed of high fashion, at least not in the traditional sense. But what's most interesting about Virgil's OFF-WHITE label is not the clothing, which we'll get to in a minute, but how the brand is constantly at the front line of the revolution that's overhauling both high and low ends of the fashion spectrum.
Whether you like his label or not, Abloh has undeniably spearheaded streetwear's ascent into high-end credibility. As if to illustrate the point, OFF-WHITE's front row saw the usual buyers and editors rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ronnie Fieg, Ian Connor, A$AP Mob members and even Olivier Rousteing. "Streetwear isn’t just T-shirts - it’s a way of thinking, a lifestyle," Abloh affirmed.
In terms of OFF-WHITE's clothing, the "You Cut Me Off" collection kept its ambitions firmly at the higher end of things - coats had raw, unfinished hems, flannels were cut up and pieced back together and shirts' plackets mixed zippers with buttons. Nothing revolutionary exactly, but the lineup included some real bangers that we'll no doubt be seeing a lot of next season.
Collegiate lettering was severed in half on the front of a mac - a play on the collection's title - while shearling flight jackets were given two collars and bikers were executed in shaggy, hairy fabrics. Oversized zipper pulls, trailing grosgrain ribbons and boxy bombers all made a statement without shouting. Less can be said for the neon yellow, pink and blue raw hem coats that closed the show, though.
"I'm just trying to do good work," Abloh concluded backstage. "I feel like I haven’t done it yet, I wake up and I’m like, am I really making an impact?" The dreaded "hype" accusation - streetwear's f-bomb - has been thrown at OFF-WHITE since day one, and the brand's aesthetic is still very much a work in progress. If there's one thing that Abloh is doing, though, it's making an impact - just ask any of the various rappers, skaters and influencers in his entourage, or the many, many youths saving up to buy his clothing, coveting his Instagram feed and dreaming of one day replicating his successes for their own.
Stay tuned for more coverage from Paris Fashion Week, and in the meantime take a look back at what went down last week in Milan.