BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

Interview: fashion is art, says creative director Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh has worked with the likes of Kanye West, Fendi, Nick Knight, Riccardo Tisci and Giuseppe Zanotti. The Off-White line he founded is carried in Hong Kong by I.T

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 February, 2015, 6:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 February, 2015, 6:08am

The freelance creative director has worked with the likes of Kanye West, Fendi, Nick Knight, Riccardo Tisci and Giuseppe Zanotti on a wide array of projects. He is also founder of Off-White, a seasonal men's and women's collection that is available at boutiques around the world, including I.T in Hong Kong

"I first became interested in fashion as a teenager. I was very much into niche cultures such as skateboarding and hip hop. Both of these have a definitive look and style, so it was a natural progression that I became interested in fashion through those two worlds.

I originally studied to be an architect. Both disciplines are related in my mind, as they are creative outlets. I started in architecture in order to learn a formal process of how to design. I transitioned into fashion as a way to see my ideas come to life more quickly. My ideas are still informed by my architectural background and that way of making things.

I see fashion as art. It is a medium. And collaborations are the exciting part of creativity. I am into visual art and graphics; in my fashion, theory can play a big part. My first fashion role was as creative director for Kanye West and his creative content company, Donda. West is the most influential modern artist; his creativity is unmatched. He deserves all the credit for his brand, because he is the visionary behind it.

I also worked at Fendi, which was a look under the hood of fashion. It gave me an understanding of how the highest tier of the fashion industry works on a day-to-day basis. Every creative project I have worked on since has been vital in shaping who I am. As a creative person, my goal is to find these outlets.

I talk a lot about the luxury of being a novice [in the industry]. Because of that, I naturally break and make my own rules. It gives me a sort of freedom.

My label Off-White is the result of an art project called Pyrex Vision. The initial values of the brand were formed by the Pyrex Vision point of view. In terms of categorisation, I am comfortable with any title that reflects the aesthetic.

Eventually my aim is to blur some lines and make something that feels new. The title is less important to me than the mood. Off-White is a blurring together of street culture and a refined aesthetic.

It's a new luxury, a sort of casual luxury. It's a brand that takes its cues from the present and longs for uniqueness. The Off-White customer is anyone that identifies with the lifestyle. I like the way visionaries like Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren have been able to craft a lifestyle using material things.

I am inspired by youth, and the way it breaks boundaries in the name of expression. I am a kid that just found the right outlet. I'm inspired by the kids that I inspire, the kids of New York, London and Paris, the DJs across the world who are pushing boundaries, and the visual artist showing outside the gallery system.

This is the most exciting time of our lives and the most exciting time for our culture. A lot of my projects for 2015 are rooted outside fashion items - they are more object- and experience-based. My vision for Off-White is a 10-year evolution, not a short-term plan. My goal is to define a new-age lifestyle brand and root it in the spirit of fashion.

The legacy I want to leave behind is a road map, so that the millions of kids like me can make their own way under the vague title of creative director."

As told to Divia Harilela