How Virgil Abloh Became One of Fashion's Most Successful Designers
It is no secret that Virgil Abloh has become one of the most polarizing figures in men's fashion. Whether that means designing 10 exclusive sneakers with Nike or DJing at various clubs throughout the world, Virgil has redefined what it means to be a fashion designer. In an age where social media has become the main marketing tool, it is as important as ever to have a presence and be involved within the community you are apart of. This is one of Virgil's key reasons for success with almost anything he is involved in.
Let's get it straight, Virgil has done amazing marketing & branding Off-White, but he isn't your typical formally trained fashion designer. There is a lot more associated with Off-White than just diagonal stripes & "quotations." When you wear Off-White, you are representing Virgil because he is the face of the brand. You are representing impeccable store design & architecture. You are representing Skepta being blasted at the Boiler Room in London at 2 am. You are representing everyone Virgil is associated with. What has made Off-White so successful is who and what is associated with the brand. Arguably Virgil is one of the first "cool kid" designers who DJ's, drinks Cha Cha Matcha, and just happens to have one of the most popular brands in the world. Virgil has blown way past Kanye co-sign to become one of the leading creative voices for our generation. At the surface, Off-White seems very plain & lacks depth, but it is less about the actual design, but more the one who is implementing the design choices. The whole concept of designing nowadays isn't really "designing," but more a curation of an idea, referencing childhood nostalgia, or referencing design influences. Not to discredit Virgil as a designer, because I think he is doing some amazing things, but it is all in the curation and simple branding ideas.
A big attribution to Off-White's success comes from who Virgil surrounds himself with. Like I said before Off-White is a brand that associates aspects of Virgil within the brand. Some of Virgil's most notable friends are people who really set the brand out on the right foot. Seeding Luka Sabbat, Ian Connor, Playboy Carti, and others Off-White product helped the brand grow organically. It wasn't like a paid partnership, Virgil just wanted his friends to have his clothes, but luckily it worked out that his friends happened to be some of the most influential kids on the internet.
The partnership between Nike & Virgil has been the biggest collaboration of a designer & a sportswear brand since Kanye made the Yeezy for Nike & later for Adidas. Virgil essentially took 10 iconic silhouettes and deconstructed them (Margiela reference) and added his signature touches such as the zip tie and his use of labeling. What has made this collaboration such a success is that all of the shoes are already popular models themselves, but adding Virgil into the mix just adds even more hype to them. They are easy to wear, they are recognizable, and the entire rollout has been fantastic. Heavily inspired by Tom Sachs, Virgil conducted workshops and talks in NYC, London, and Milan to discuss each shoe and give people an interactive experience. Not to mention the design of each space was highly curated and made for Instagram images.
What does the future hold for Virgil Abloh? Well, my best guess is that he will land at one of the commercial houses and will go from there. In my opinion, it has been a long time coming for Virgil to get another gig outside of Off-White. Although Off-White will always be his brand, I think he would do well at a commercial house because of his personal popularity as well as his branding strategy. For now, we can expect more collabs with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Cha Cha Matcha, and Champion; and of course his November general release of "The Ten."