The “ICON ARCHITECT” All Eyes on Virgil Abloh
Last week Louis Vuitton shared their news of the appointment of Virgil Abloh as director of menswear. “Annnnnnd” I hear you wondering, why is this even important? Well, considering Abloh studied engineering at University of Wisconsin–Madison and graduated with a Master’s degree in Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology, some might think these are unfamiliar origins for the new director of a luxe cultural heavy-weight like Louis Vuitton. I mean, shouldn’t there be an old, severely picky, French bourgeois fashionista in charge?
Having emerged early through a collaboration with Kanye West in 2011, Abloh is definitely known for breaking the rules, recently admitting that he bailed on his final jury to have a meeting with the creative director at West’s agency DONDA. Widely recognised as a chameleon in the design sphere, Abloh’s persistent ability to collaborate has seen him work with establishments like IKEA, Nike, Jimmy Choo and writers like Murakami, not to mention lecturing at Columbia University and RISD. His rise eventually saw him open OFFWHITE in 2013, a high end fashion house based in Milan, that introduces street wear to the higher echelons.
Often cladded in a generic hoodie, Jordan’s on his feet and topped off with a school-boy chuckle, Abloh’s “happy-go-lucky” attitude is almost, well…misguiding. What I have observed is that this “norm-core” appeal is present in the public persona of a number of “boyish” entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Speigel, Elon Musk and Redditt’s Alexis Ohanian. This new age of unimaginably successful, geeky and highly transparent entrepreneurs has formed somewhat of a cultural obsession with the Icon Coder, the Icon Techi, and now through Abloh, what I see as the Icon Architect.
“I don’t come from where I’m supposed to come from… so I have to prove that this is design, that this is art, that this is valid.”
Notably, there are many iconic architecture figures, past and present, occupying the curiosities of design fans worldwide. We could never forget Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, Zaha Hadid…I know, you know. But what Abloh has managed to do so successfully is leverage the complete domination of social media over youth and popular culture to form the foundation of a multi-faceted design career. By disrupting a global industry like luxury fashion Abloh has been able to interject himself into traditionally exclusive spaces, where he says, “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.”
Undoubtedly Abloh is conscious of his role in mitigating architecture in popular discourse, where by appealing to the creative interests of a diverse audience he reconstructs ideas on how architecture can hold a greater stake in contemporary culture. Holding many cards in his hand, his single ideological objective echoes the work of Caravaggio whom he discovered in college,
“the notion that innovation was possible within a creative discipline—“blew my mind.”
In a recent interview with Diane Solway of WMagazine, Abloh elaborates on his project at the Barcelona Pavilion pictured above,
“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.”
For emerging designers, architects and creatives like us, Virgil’s trajectory can counter our perception of the work we allow ourselves to do, and even more so offers a successful precedent for cross-cultural professionalism.
At the heart of Abloh’s creative philosophy is a firm belief that dividing creative disciplines is, “old-fashioned, that one dictates the other: “Both are creative service industries – there are people on the end of the ideas.” Abloh’s cult following has earned him Icon status, as he continues to extend his creative practice into exhibiting at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which will host his first retrospective in 2019.
Click the links to find more Abloh:
and Here: https://www.off—white.com/en/AU
Collage Tsyon Feleke x Teryn Payne, “ Virgil Abloh Talks His Fashion Journey, Off-White Conception, and Career Advice,” teenvogue, jan, 31, 2018, accessed march, 28 2018, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/virgil-abloh-interview
Renz Ofiaza, “Virgil Abloh Explains His Vision for OFF-WHITE & the Future of the Brand,” highsnobiety, oct, 02 2017 accessed march, 25 2018, https://www.highsnobiety.com/2017/10/02/virgil-abloh-off-white-interview-in-the-studio/
[4-6]Diane Solway, “Virgil Abloh and His Army of Disruptors: How He Became the King of Social Media Superinfluencers.” WMag.com, april 20,2017, Accessed march 25 2018. https://www.wmagazine.com/story/virgil-abloh-off-white-kanye-west-raf-simons
[7-8]”Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh: ‘My brand started in the alleys of the internet” The guardian, 10 mar 2018, accessed 5 April 2018,
 Fabien Montique, Future imagery, digital image, accessed april 5, 2018, https://www.wmagazine.com/story/virgil-abloh-off-white-kanye-west-raf-simons
[2-3] Walter Pfeiffer, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh fall 2017 collection, digital image, accessed april 5, 2018, https://www.wmagazine.com/story/virgil-abloh-off-white-kanye-west-raf-simons