Virgil Abloh gets candid in an interview with W Magazine‘s Diane Solway in the glossy’s May issue, which sheds light on the designer, DJ, and disruptor’s rise to the top. He was lensed for the story by Walter Pfeiffer. Abloh launched his first label, Pyrex Vision, in 2012, and since 2014, the designer has shown his Off-White collections in Paris and has elevated his line with sharp tailoring, velvet down jackets, and shearling coats made in Italy. “My idea was that something niche would be elevated to the point where it’s worthy of putting on a Paris runway,” he said.
In the interview, Abloh reflects back to 2009 when he attended one of his first fashion shows, Comme des Garçons, as Kanye West’s creative director, and considered himself an outsider. “We got into about 60 percent of the shows,” he recalls of their arrival on the Paris scene. “We were a generation that was interested in fashion and weren’t supposed to be there. We saw this as our chance to participate and make current culture. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were bringing more excitement than the industry was.” In an interview on GQStyle.com, Raf Simons dismissed Abloh as unoriginal. Abloh said that Simons has long been one of his heroes. Coincidentally, they are both nominated for a 2017 CFDA Award. Still, he added, “His critique shows the line in the sand” with youth culture—between the generation that dismisses hierarchies in fashion and the one that embraces streetwear as high fashion but doesn’t recognize streetwear’s pacesetters as peer designers.
As for what Abloh is working on these days? He just designed a prototype for a Nike Air Force 1 sneaker, and he’s also working on a series of books that features models wearing his clothes inside architectural landmarks, like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. “The idea is to teach my demographic about architecture through buildings that have inspired my way of thinking. I want to put culture on a track so that it becomes more inclusive, more open source. And then give kids the chance to ride in the express lane.”
Abloh looks to the social media age and his inner circle in the worlds of music, art, and fashion for inspiration, including A$AP Rocky, creative director A$AP Bari, artist Jim Joe, teen mod Luka Sabbat, and stylist Ian Connor. “Those kids don’t realize the power they have,” noted Abloh of Connor, 24, who has 737K Instagram followers, and Sabbat, 19, who has 373K. (Abloh has 693K.) “They could become more relevant than fashion brands. I say to them, ‘Kylie’s outfit is different because you exist.’” Of course there’s also Kanye to credit. “We’re all the children of Kanye’s trailblazing,” Abloh said. “This generation wouldn’t have the freedom to cross genres had it not been for his passion to find more than what was delivered to him.”