Fashion’s designer of the moment Virgil Abloh channelled James Dean, Bart Simpson and the graffiti legend Dondi White at his Off-White Paris show Wednesday.
The American creator’s hype machine has pretty much hijacked the first three days of Paris men’s fashion week, with Kanye West’s former sidekick and muse about to make his debut at the helm of Louis Vuitton Thursday.
He rolled out his own Off-White label’s spring summer collection Wednesday, which he said was inspired by “those crazy summer New York City nights when it’s just as sticky hot at midnight as it was at noon.”
With temperatures in the French capital every bit as high, Abloh sent out a run of almost nostalgic youth culture looks, with references to the classic film “Rebel Without a Cause” and white T-shirts with tags in homage to the late New York artist White.
True to his streetwear roots, his tees were long and baggy and often cut to the elbow and beyond. Some were decorated with scenes from the Simpsons, with one declaring, “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?”
His love of branding even extend to the shoelaces, which had “shoelaces” written on them just in case their might be a doubt.
Several models sported neck and trouser chains made from climbing hooks, with recut and embroidered jeans apeing a DIY teenage bedroom vibe, which included leaving the security tags on shoes.
– Doubters –
While Abloh is drooled over by young fans who flock to his shows, some in the front rows whisper that the new darling of the French luxury conglomerate LVMH — which owns Vuitton — is “not a real designer” because he didn’t go to fashion school.
Instead the creator — who trained as an engineer and architect — cut his teeth with his famous friend West designing outfits on Photoshop. He has also accumulated an enviable address book of celebrity friends and 2.3 million Instagram followers.
He did, however, learn a thing or two about the trade from his mother, an immigrant seamstress from Ghana who made a new life in Illinois.
And Abloh loves to add the odd couture touch, this time with a pair of jeans with a kind of floral toile de Jouy pattern that would not be out of place on the wall of a French chateau.
In fact, the sometime DJ has a finger in many pies, with an art show running in London alongside the Japanese pop art legend Takashi Murakami.
And before his Off-White show he told the French daily Le Figaro that he had much to bring to Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand.
“I simply think that Louis Vuitton is missing the products that me and my generation want to buy,” he said.
Abloh, 38, is only the second black man to rise to the top of a big Paris fashion house, with French designer Olivier Rousteing responsible for both Balmain’s men and women’s lines.