OFF-WHITE’s SS19 show was held in Paris this morning at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. It was titled “JIM STARK” and this time Abloh’s signature air quotes referenced the lead character from 1955 film classic Rebel Without A Cause.
James Dean, who played Stark in the film, is one of the most enduring archetypes of the American rebel: he smoked, he drank, and he died tragically young. The cultural impact of his character in Rebel Without A Cause — and his uniform of white T-shirts, worker jeans, and red Harrington jackets — gave birth to a new image for the previously clean-cut American teenager.
The show was also dedicated to a different type of rebel: influential graffiti artist Dondi White. The artist was a key figure in New York’s downtown scene, known for his bright, dynamic street art, the most notable of which was his three subway car-long piece, Children of the Grave.
In 1998, White passed away at age 37 from an AIDS-related illness. Abloh explained on Instagram that the show was “channeling ‘DONDI WHITE’ and the golden era that made our now.”
OFF-WHITE’s show invitation depicted a picture often used on the cover of Oscar Wilde’s controversial (and only) novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. For those who have’t read it, the story centers on aesthetics, moral decay, and the value of art in society. It’s almost certainly something Virgil Abloh has read.
The SS19 collection featured elements of workwear, graphic tees, and a choice of severely distressed denim. The jeans that appeared throughout the show featured all kinds of embellishments, including rips and embroidery, and were styled with a pair of classic Doc Martens featuring an OFF-WHITE tag.
Of the denim, the most striking aspect was an oversized waist that barely gripped the model’s hips, making the jeans appear as if suspended in midair. Perhaps this was a way to flex the new OFF-WHITE boxers that also made an appearance. The boxers came in a classic black/yellow safety-tape colorway, poking above the jeans’ waistline in a style reminiscent of the early ’00s.
There was also the new RIMOWA x OFF-WHITE suitcase being styled as a backpack, with heavy metallic accessories worn around the neck and clipped to belt loops.
The SS19 collection featured another classic, albeit more contemporary, American rebel: Bart Simpson. Matt Groening’s iconic cartoon creation appeared on long-sleeve sweaters surrounded by flames, with other references to The Simpsons peppered in through graphic tees depicting the Simpsons’ family home at 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield.
With these references to James Dean and Bart Simpson, it’s clear that Abloh has — in his curator-meets-product designer way — looked to deconstruct the style clichés of the American rebel for SS19. His repurposing of classic rebel style — white T-shirts and blue jeans — makes perfect sense for a designer working within the context of a fashion industry that has been rebelling against itself for some time now, amalgamating codes of luxury and streetwear beyond all recognition.
Stay tuned for more information and full looks from the show.