It’s about time we have an honest conversation about Virgil Abloh….

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Cape Town - 180706 - SA Mens fashion week at The Lookout, Waterfront. In pic is designer, Jason Porshe photographer - Tracey Adams/African News

Let me be clear of my personal opinion from the outset, I am not a fan of Virgil Abloh’s work. Okay that was a bit harsh…Let me rephrase; I am not a fan of his work when it comes him designing clothes.

For years prior to the creation of PYREX VISION (the predecessor to Off-White) I had always been a great fan of the man being Kanye West’s creative direction team which later became known as DONDA. When I realized that this was Virgil Abloh, I instantly became a fan. His creative direction work relating to the various creative outputs which accompanied Kanye West’s Yeezus album and collaborative album with Jay-Z were nothing short of mind blowing. To this day I don’t think any stage production will come close to the set he helped conceptualize for the Yeezus tour.

However, when it comes to the creative output of his clothing, the same level of admiration is not held by me. For the sake of the length of this piece I will only focus on his creative output during his time as the creative director for menswear at Louis Vuitton, a position which I don’t believe he possesses the skills for. This is through no fault of his own; I just believe he does not possess the creative vocabulary to execute designs worthy for the men’s ready to wear division of the most famous luxury house.

It would be easy for me to base this view on a comparison of the creative output of Mr. Abloh at his role with the houses previous men’s creative director. But this would be unfair and far too easy. Kim Jones in my opinion is the most talented menswear designer on the planet (his recent work for Dior’s menswear is a testament to this) so any comparison to Mr. Jones would leave his comparator second best.

Let me begin with a critique of his first menswear collection for LV which was SS ’19. For his first collection Mr. Abloh sent down the runway 17 all white looks which resembled more of the clothing one would expect from a brand Supreme, never mind the brand which has become known to epitomizes luxury. The silhouettes of the pants throughout the collection were either way to baggy and bordered on looking shabby and rushed or were too tight and resembled the kind of fit one would associate with an ill-fitting men’s chino purchased from a fast fashion retailer. 

The same of which can be said for the prints that filled the collection. My last final gripe with Abloh’s final collection was how literal he took his inspiration for the show ( Which was The wizard of Oz).He had a jersey which literally had the characters of the Wizard of Oz walking across the yellow brick road and finished the collection in a look which was a clear reference to the tin man.

Then we move to his sophomore show, fall ’19. In my opinion there were 3 major faults with this collection. Firstly, the silhouettes he proposed throughout the collection were simply not practical. They looked lazy, as if they were the early draping exercises of a designer conceptualizing his show. Secondly the use of different countries flags throughout the collection was just too lazy. 

At a high fashion house, one is tasked with building on the codes of the house and updating them and refining them. Luxury travel is synonymous with Louis Vuitton, but to distil this concept to garments made of collages out of flags is simply reductive. Last but not least let me touch on the shoes. Let’s be honest, anyone who has any sneaker knowledge would easily recognize the sneakers presented on the runway were just Jordan 4 rip offs made in better quality leather. This theme of unoriginality will lead over into his most recent collection which I will now discuss.

For his most recent SS ‘20 show Mr. Abloh presented a collection in which there were some redeeming qualities. The colour palette was amazing and the pastels he used really looked amazing on the runway. Unfortunately, this is where my kind words end for this collection. To those with a keen interest in menswear one could not help but ignore the glaring resemblances and similarities to two other designers which were present in this show. 

The beginning half of the show saw his men don brimmed hats which looked peculiarly similar to those of Mr. Abloh’s fashion Idol Raf Simons “Blade Runner” collection shown of SS ’18. Secondly the kite like sculptural forms which popped up 4 times in this show bared a striking resemblance to the similar structures preset in London based designer Craig Greens SS ’15 show. Co-incidence I think not.

Whilst the idea of having a black individual at the helm of menswear at the most famous luxury house in the world is something which indeed needs to be championed and is something which I am acutely aware is crucial for the transformation. Particularly for an industry which is in dire need of transformation. I don’t believe Mr. Abloh is the individual for the job in this regard.

 

Mikhail Petersen is based in Cape Town and holds a Bachelors of Social Science degree in Politics and Economic History, as well as an Law Degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.