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Style Notes: An Exhibition c/o Off-White's Virgil Abloh

Style Notes: An Exhibition c/o Off-White's Virgil Abloh

Cult streetwear designer Virgil Abloh is the subject of a must-see (if you find yourself stateside) exhibition that has opened to crowds of hypebeasts at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Ever fancied getting to grips with the creative processes of the mastermind behind Off-White’s iconic arrows, industrial belts and coveted Off Court high top trainers? The exhibition takes a deep dive into the working methods and collaborative output of Abloh, who has fast become fashion’s favourite multi-hyphenate designer.

All images courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Virgil Abloh at work in his studio and a CD and case symbolic of his work with Kanye West
Virgil Abloh at work in his studio and a CD and case symbolic of his work with Kanye West

Now the artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Abloh’s influence has grown to extend far beyond the streetwear scene to the upmost echelons of luxury fashion. His radical approach to product and authentic synthesis of style and culture has helped redefine the meaning of ‘luxury’ for a new generation who value relevance and status over the mainstream.

Born to Ghanaian parents who emigrated to the USA and with a formal education in engineering and architecture, Abloh’s background and interests in art, design and music have shaped his brand. At the start of his career, he worked on the creative team for the then-emerging Kanye West, conceptualising album covers, concert designs and merch. When he launched his own label, Off-White™, an irony-laced, streetwear-inspired power house, he pioneered a new approach to luxury fashion, borrowing the DIY and remixing techniques associated with urban streetwear and re-framing them for a youthful, luxury audience.

A view of the exhibition including a number of Off-White sneakers on a plinth in the middle of the room and black boards on the walls with the words Advertise Here written on them in white type
A view of the exhibition including a number of Off-White sneakers on a plinth in the middle of the room and black boards on the walls with the words Advertise Here written on them in white type

The exhibition is broken down into seven sections, each one focusing on an area of Abloh’s work over the last two decades. From fashion and music to art, furniture and graphic design, it starts by exploring his early work with Pyrex Vision, through Off-White highlights and his work as a professional DJ, culminating in a critique of the insidious influence of advertising. It grapples with big issues from race and the creation of a more inclusive fashion industry to our enslavement by ads in a capitalist culture. It is an exhibition for the conscious and questioning consumer.

Virgil Abloh backstage at an Off-White show, a series of mannequins with the words YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY IN THE WRONG PLACE written on the wall in neon yellow lights, and Virgil Abloh backstage at a show adjusting the length of a long leather coat worn by a model
Virgil Abloh backstage at an Off-White show, a series of mannequins with the words YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY IN THE WRONG PLACE written on the wall in neon yellow lights, and Virgil Abloh backstage at a show adjusting the length of a long leather coat worn by a model

Abloh explained: “For me, “Figures of Speech” is an art exhibition rooted in advertising and “the projected image.” Any time an idea takes shape on a particular surface—a photo print, a screen, a billboard, or canvas—it becomes real. This exhibition demonstrates how I wrestle with this concept freed from any one medium, looking for personal and specific solutions. This twenty-year survey shows how I am constantly looking for a way to transform myself from consumer to producer, navigating a path between “Tourist” and “Purist,” between the literal and the figurative.”

All images courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art Chicago

An installation at the museum of a wall-size pink screen with the words Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear in white type, with industrial beams on the floor in front of it
An installation at the museum of a wall-size pink screen with the words Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear in white type, with industrial beams on the floor in front of it