What’s Between Black and White?

Fashion / August 06, 2018

Manila’s fashion scene is about to get a whole lot more interesting as Off-White finds a home in 8 Rockwell. Opening this Wednesday, Off-White shall bring in its streetwear-savvy hoodies, sweaters, skirts, pants, and jackets denoted with either words in quotation marks or the industrial print reminiscent of construction “Keep Off” signs.

It’s fascinating to read about the history of Off-White. In the relatively short time that’s its been around, Off-White has generated a lot of buzz. It has also become the staple of a certain generation. We’ve come to understand that sweatpants and round neck T-shirts are the new sign of luxury. The Kardashians wear it at home. Musicians wear it on stage during tours. Off-duty models are spotted in it when the paparazzi catches them. Alongside other streetwear labels, Off-White seems to have made the underground scene mainstream and lowkey dressing the ultimate decadence in couture especially for the young and newly-rich set.

You can tell that the brand follows a rebellious streak in the way its  founder Virgil Abloh is your typical fashion designer. He’s a DJ (known as Flat White) and also a stylist. But never did he has a degree under is belt. The Chicago-bred Abloh has a degree in civil engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon completing that course,  he studied architecture at the  Illinois Institute of Technology.

One of Abloh’s key influences come from one of the most controversial figures in the music and fashion scene: Kanye West. In 2009, after trying his luck at architectural firm, Abloh became the creative director of West’s Donda. Together, they developed merch for the rapper and Abloh was in charge of overseeing West’s stage shows.

Abloh’s first foray into fashion officially wasn’t so successful. Pyrex Vision was launched in 2012 but quickly shuttered in 2013. But you could see how that labels main products: Champion t-shirts and deadstock Ralph Lauren rugby shirts with screen-printed logos on them, where the sprouts of what would be Off-White.

Unfazed by this failure, Abloh introduced Off-White to the world in 2013. And, clearly, it clicked. When the Milan-based label was launched Abloh told Style.com the goal of his brand, “I want to give my point of view and merge street sensibilities in a proper fashion context. I think that if I can merge the two, it’ll make something interesting.”

It was indeed something interesting. In the past five years, the growth of Off-White seems to be always at fever pitch. In 2015, the brand was a finalist for LVMH Prize. They also collaborated with SSENSE that same year. The brand’s notoriety quickly grew also with the its celebrity clientele which involved hip-hop royalty like A$AP Rocky, Rihanna, Travis Scott, Drake, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z which furthered the conversation between music, streetwear, and fashion.

Off-White also constantly collaborates with other industry giants including Nike, Galeries Lafayette, Rimowa, Selfridges, and Ikea.

Slowly, I feel like you could scroll through your social media feed without seeing something sport a bag or a pair of boots labelled with a word encased in quotation marks.  This distinct feature of the label plays on Abloh’s sense of irony. But putting the word “Sculpture” on a bag, he makes one think what is the real difference between a piece of art and a handbag. He told magazine o32c, “You can use typography and wording to completely change the perception of a thing without changing anything about it. If I take a men’s sweatshirt and write ‘woman’ on its back, that’s art.”

Off-White’s use of Helvetica font are what makes every season coherent with one another and add to how Abloh turned something generic into something unique. Not only is Abloh aware of contradictions of fashion, he celebrates it. In the same 032c interview, he delcares “We’re at the beginning of what I believe is the ‘streetwear’ era of fashion – which is about doing it yourself, and logos, and irony, and satire. But it can also be chic, and refined, and elevated. That’s Off-White.”


Fashion, Off-White, Virgil Abloh