OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh

HQMilan, Italy
FounderVirgil Abloh

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, or Off-White as it’s more commonly known, is a men’s and women’s fashion label founded by American fashion designer Virgil Abloh. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in civil engineering, followed by a Masters in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Abloh enjoyed a brief stint at an architecture firm before launching the Chicago art gallery and streetwear boutique RSVP Gallery in 2009. It was around this time that Abloh was picked up by Kanye West to work for his multi-faceted design agency, Donda. Arguably the closest thing West had to a right-hand man, Abloh’s work at Donda included set-design for many of Kanye West’s live tours, as well as designing the cover artwork for West and Jay-Z’s ‘Watch the Throne’ record, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. In 2013, Abloh broke away from Donda briefly to reveal a new streetwear project, Pyrex Vision. Though the brand had released one or two t-shirts previously, it was the brand’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection, “Youth Always Wins”, that skyrocketed Pyrex to notoriety. Consisting of simple Champion sweats and tees (as well as plaid flannel shirts bought at a massive discount from Ralph Lauren’s closing Rugby line) decorated with simple graphic prints reading ‘Pyrex 23’ and images of Caravaggio’s painting ‘Entombment of Christ’, the collection’s accompanying lookbook and video featured modelling efforts from a number of members of A$AP Mob, whilst the collection’s outlandish prices generated considerable buzz online. A year later, Abloh’s brand returned under the new name, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh; it is believed that the change might have been prompted by legal action from the Pyrex kitchenware brand. A vast progression from his output with Pyrex, under Off-White Abloh has been producing full collections for both men and women, with all garments being made in Italy. Having struggled to design a monogram for his label that looked distinct to those used by other high-fashion brand, Off-White’s trademark motifs include a series of diagonal stripes which can be found on trouser legs, shirt sleeves and the back of jackets, as well as the word ‘White’ printed in various places, continuing a motif established in the Pyrex Vision line. Abloh continues to incorporate influences from his architectural and engineering education into his design, and speaks regularly about the strong influence the two disciplines’ principles have had upon his work. In recent years, Off-White has expanded into physical retail locations in Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York and Toronto. His retail locations are notable for their recontextualizing of familiar environments such as office spaces or rainforests, further exploring Abloh’s fascination with architecture and physical space. Another key design element of Abloh’s design process is the use of irony and subversion. At a lecture at Columbia University at the beginning of 2017, Abloh described one of his core aesthetic elements as “everything in quotations”, a principle that manifests in both physical and theoretical terms; many of Abloh’s designs make a heavy use of referencing and intertextuality to place familiar concepts in new, unexpected contexts; but many designs will also feature references to themselves placed, literally, in quotation marks. His recent collaborative Air Jordan 1 sneaker, for example, features a large graphic print on the heel reading, “AIR”. In 2018, it was announced that Virgil Abloh would be Louis Vuitton’s new Artistic Director of menswear. Since the groundbreaking move was announced, Abloh has also teased a second round of Nike shoes, as well as further glimpses at a project with Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA.