I will be honest, Virgil Abloh falls into that category of multifaceted designers that I did NOT understand initially. Only time and the progressive flattening of the creativity of today were able to make me grasp his vision.
A self-described “multihyphenate artist”, Abloh was an architect, DJ, and designer, lent to fashion and art, and within a few years of the launch of his brand Off-White, he became a Midas King that LVMH did not let slip away.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was explaining to my students about his debut as creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s line (spring-summer 2019 collection) and how in his Instagram-inspired and polychromatic fashion show he succeeded in capturing the spirit of the times by exploiting the digital medium in every facet, from the creative to the communication aspects.
The news of his death at the age of 41 shocked me. The thought of his illness blurs with my personal perception of living in an eternal period of pre-post-pandemic dissatisfaction in which so many millennials are trying to change their lives, aspiring to pursue jobs at a more sustainable pace. Dedicating at least 18-20 hours per day to work in a never-ending chase to no one knows what, then dying in a moment, gives you food for thought. A lot.
I didn’t meet Virgil Abloh, but I had the chance to see him in person while he was working. To remember him, I dug out this shot from the backstage of the Off-White men’s spring-summer 2018 show, one of the most bitterly criticised of Pitti Uomo 92 (June 2017).
They accused him of being pretentious in comparing himself to an artist just for projecting Jenny Holzer’s neo-conceptual poems on Palazzo Pitti’s facade.
I do not know whether that collection was exceptional or not, but it certainly represented the human discomfort felt towards what happens in any part of the world where there are wars and refugees escaping. Those serial outfits in high-tech fabrics, resembling life-saving garments, were messages in a bottle that in a haughty city like Florence found only a stormy sea.