Virgil Abloh’s Off-White show was without a doubt, an exhilarating journey. He did name the show “Laboratory of Fun” for good reasons. As a remarkable opener to Paris haute couture season (since the pandemic hit), the show was born out of a period of growth and evolvement of the designer. The show was led by Bella Hadid, who entered the “Laboratory of Fun” with an electric blue sheath dress.
Coming back from the year ‘off’ that was 2020, Abloh declared he had turned around his visualization of what Off-White must grow into. Detaching himself from the fateful year, Abloh felt an urge to switch direction for the brand, changing path and what the brand should evolve into: “You know, I take 2020 to heart. When we were sitting at home watching the world get turned upside down, there were very, very clear guidelines on what the fashion industry was like, and what (people were) hoping it would sort of evolve to. So this is like a big deal: Essentially when fashion shows do start, how do we come back and behave? You can’t just glide over that.”
The show was evidently an exuberant reunion, an unexpected twist that was much needed to repurpose the traditional ritual of the catwalk, coupled with a show-stopping performance by MIA. What the show entailed was a considerably minimalist, luxurious yet deconstructed collection, that reimagined the foundations of a catwalk and offered an alternative perspective on how to find cohesion beyond the aesthetic values of the pieces displayed, which could almost act as a metaphor for how to find joy again after such an impetuous and turbulent time for all.
“If I were to look at my body of work, I think I’ve grown up the most in the shortest amount of time. I think it’s rebelling against the younger version of myself. And that’s the first time I’ve actually said that.”Virgil Abloh
The decision to open couture week was spot on. Though the brand hasn’t detached itself from ready-to-wear, the evolution of the brand can be seen through the sophisticated take on the tailored skirt suits, the elegant slimline coats and two evening dresses with foam-padded hips that combined the world of menswear and womenswear without any distinction. Gendering clothes is something Abloh detests: “I’ve always believed in diversity on all ends of the spectrum. Age, gender, orientation—when it comes to representing that, you know we’re across that as best we can.”
Off-white takes a completely new approach to delivering the brand’s identity through graphics rather than solely relying on its unmistakable logo. This decision seems to elevate the brand and make it truly become competition for any other Parisian fashion house. A particular favourite of ours is the cream skirt-suit; along with the ice-blue and lavender coats, which are simply divine. The show concluded with models and Abloh applauding and dancing with MIA and her troupe of dancers. The room was filled with an uplifting sense of encouragement that radiated positivity in all directions and ended up in a chaotic explosion of joy.
Throughout the show, Abloh broadcasted talks and music from his “Imaginary FM” radio station, opened by a discussion led by Trinice McNally and Jaimee Swift. “It started over the pandemic, where I made a content stream of supporting creatives giving creatives voice, fashion, art and culture. That seemed more contemporary than just, like, models walking in a straight line, as if they’re hangers for garments to sell them, you know? I was trying to figure out how to capture my world, and put that with when people look at my clothes. To me, this content is why I exist. That’s why the brand exists. And that’s a specific point: If we said that’s what we wanted in the industry, I need to see it—not just a show that starts and ends. It can’t be vague. I think vagueness got us to where we were before. I’m older and wiser now. And that’s a magical thing.”
The vision that Virgil Abloh offers us is certainly more mature than his previous shows, defining a contemporary elegance that not many can capture. But we can’t help but wonder how well couture dresses for and outfits hovering between streetwear and workwear can be presented in a single collection. The male line wasn’t quite as loud but felt more cohesive, whereas the female proposal is undoubtedly more conceptually successful, even though the study of cuts and the choice of materials does not seem inspired by his origins as an architect, which was according to Abloh what he was trying to convey.
Words By Tommaso Donati, Graphic By Emily Chapillon