How Virgil Abloh Took Over Streetwear
Artistic director, designer, DJ, stylist. OFF-White founder Virgil Abloh can do it all, and can do it well.
After receiving a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002, he went on to study architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Following his work within an architecture firm, in 2009, Abloh co-founded and opened the RSVP Gallery, a boutique store specialising in menswear and art alongside his friend and fellow Chicago native, Don Crawley, AKA Don C.
This new venture was the first step in what would become an extremely successful career in the fashion industry. That same year, Kanye West reached out to Virgil who had been a close friend leading up to that time in order to get him on board to assist with tour merch and stage design.
Following this came Abloh’s first proper entrance into streetwear via his own brand named ‘Pryrex Vision’, rolled out in 2012 featuring an industrial aesthetic to simple garments, taking Champion sweaters and basketball shorts and emblazing them with a bold Helvetica font - ‘PYREX’. Being a kid from Chicago, Virgil saw himself as “a skater kid who loved graphic tees”. And this affinity was projected into this first project with Pyrex Vision.
However, with Pyrex not taking off in the way that Virgil had hoped, he decided to launch his luxury brand 2013, OFF-White.
While many believed that Pyrex had simply been phased out, it seems that it instead merged with echoes of Virgil’s vision with Pyrex still remaining in his luxury OFF-White brand that many have come to know and love with his signature industrial, rugged, aesthetic inspired by his background in engineering and architecture.
4 years after the launch of Virgil Abloh’s then-new luxury brand ‘OFF-White’, came one of the biggest releases in the history of streetwear. A collection titled ‘The Ten’ alongside Nike was officially unveiled in 2017 and took only 10 months to create. Featuring a collaboration on 10 of Nike’s biggest silhouettes including the Air Jordan 1 High, the Air Max 90 and the Presto.
This collection was split into two sections, ‘REVEALING’ and ‘GHOSTING’. The ‘REVEALING’ part of the collection saw popular Nike silhouettes broken down allowing consumers to see what goes into the makeup of the shoe such as the unfinished edging showing off foam and stitching, keeping to Abloh’s now-signature design language.
The ‘GHOSTING’ part of the collection took a slightly different approach. Utilising sneakers including the Converse Chuck 70 as well as the Air Max 97 and the Air Force 1, the uppers of these shoes were made with transparent materials and similar tonal colours to bring a sense of unity to the collection.
Not only did this collaboration cause mass hysteria with many sneakerheads taking any opportunity they could to get their hands on the hyped release, but it marked the beginning of an ongoing partnership between the two brands, going on to release some of the most hyped releases in the history of sneakers including most recently his ‘50 Dunks’ collection.
Just a year later, Abloh took the next big step in his career which further increased his reach and influence over the fashion industry. 2018 saw Virgil Abloh signed to Louis Vuitton as the Creative Director of LV Homme, taking over from Kim Jones and becoming the first African-American artistic director at LVMH.
Since the beginning, Abloh’s scope has been to connect generations through the work that he produces.
“I’m dusting off of the previous generation what I think is valuable, all this heritage—Louis Vuitton has such rich history, Nike has this important history—so that a young generation can carry those things and value those things”, Virgil told WSJ magazine in an interview earlier this month, later going onto dispute critics that call him a ‘disruptor’ saying: “When I’m termed as a disruptor it’s totally inaccurate”.
For Virgil Abloh, the sky’s the limit. Touching all areas of streetwear/sneaker culture, he has been able to bring a completely new aesthetic to an industry that never stops moving forward.
From everyone at Kick Game, happy birthday Virgil.