Virgil Abloh: Off-White, Luxury, and Open-Source Fashion

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CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 17: Virgil Abloh (via Shutterstock)

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This episode is all about the late Virgil Abloh. From luxury rap to high fashion, his influence changed an entire industry and several other adjacent ones.

In this episode of Trapital, I’m joined by friend of the pod, Zack O’Malley Greenburg. We broke down Virgil’s early years that shaped his future, his relationship with Kanye West, brands like Pyrex Vision, Off-White, his 3% rule, his open-sourced approach to business, his highs, lows, and so much more.

You can listen to the episdoe here or wherever you get podcasts!

Virgil Abloh and open-source fashion

Instead of our usual episode highlights, I want to share three quotes with you from Virgil Abloh’s March 2018 interview with 032c:

“To me, luxury means value system. To a younger group of people, you could replace the word “luxury” with the word “coveted.” I covet these vintage Levi’s jeans, because I couldn’t even find another pair like this. This is luxury to me. It doesn’t mean that it’s glossy or the finest fabrics. That doesn’t matter. There’s a personal luxury that I consider to be the basis of Off-White. It crashes together things that distinctly relate with someone who grew up in the 90s. And that’s what fashion is. It’s a recording system of our time.”

If there’s one paragraph to describe Virgil’s fashion mentality, it’s this. It’s a reminder of how personal and subjective fashion is. But Virgil’s definition of fashion has carried weight. He shaped a generation’s definition of high fashion, forcing traditional fashion houses to follow his moves.

“By the end of my career, I want streetwear to be perceived like an art movement. I often say that streetwear in its present state is like disco. It’s such a jazzy thing. It’s so perfectly of its time. You thought disco might have aged well, but it aged poorly, because it didn’t have depth. It was missing something credible—like punk.”

If this is how Virgil felt in 2018, I can only imagine what he would think today if he were still alive. Has the streetwear movement been in a better spot today, post-pandemic? It’s hard to say.

“But I can see through a brand and see what value I place in it. One part is irony. It’s ironic for me to carry a luxury handbag for my headphones. Brands are just tools for consumers to describe their personality. If your personality is flat, then you wear obvious things. That’s the rise of merchwear.”

“Irony” speaks to several Virgil-isms that he has become known for:

– the quotations on Off-White products
– logos or designs that are flipped or edited in some way
– the 3% rule for design

But this one may be my favorite:

“I almost don’t even want to design and operate from scratch. I’m into the idea of editing.”

This quote is a very internet-centric perspective on design. It’s GitHub for high fashion. Off-White and Pyrex Vision are the brain children of an older millennial like Virgil, who took advantage of all the resources available.

From skipping his college graduation to meet with Kanye West’s former manager, John Monopoly, to interning at Fendi with Ye, to making history at Louis Vuitton, Virgil accomplished a lot in his 41 years.

You can listen to the episode here.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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