An Unexpected Prodigy

Avant-garde, expressive, bold: Virgil Abloh dug his way from his roots in Illinois to establish his brand in the biggest cities across the globe.

Natasha Thomas, Reporter

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Virgil Abloh, who grew up in Rockford, IL, has been a prominent name in design for many years; he got his start as an intern for Fendi, worked with Kanye West and Jay-Z, and then went on to become the first African-American artistic director at high-end fashion line Louis Vuitton. Despite his many accomplishments, the pinnacle of Abloh’s success is the brand he started in 2013 that has now grown to be one of the most upscale, coveted brands of hypebeasts everywhere: “Off-White.” His creative genius flourished through this brand as he has expanded the perception of modern street wear and pushed boundaries with the bizarre and the simple. Although in the eyes of high fashion’s longtime moguls he might fall short of expectations, the youth have an unwavering admiration for Abloh and his legacy- especially being a man of color in a field historically lacking diversity. Most recently Abloh has been making buzz in the sneaker section as his collaborations with Nike and other big names in the shoe game have amassed huge value; one shoe, his Jordan 1 Retro, “Chicago,” resells for over $3,000.

Abloh’s sneaker prowess is unmatched in this new era of street wear, which he has had a large part in sculpting. However, his fashion line was what earned him the respect of the industry. He doesn’t overuse colors or patterns, rather he stays simplistic with a single key element to draw interest- whether its well-placed stripes or a vivacious color. He breaks gender boundaries with feminine-esque overcoats and male skirts, and always completes the outfit with a tastefully matched sneaker. By utilizing the layering of neutral canvases with vibrant accents or offbeat cuts, the combination of abnormal silhouettes and clever simplicity are what makes Abloh’s work so desirable.

His debut with Nike, “The Ten,” made noise when it dropped August of 2017, featuring ten reinvented silhouettes. The two most intriguing were the familiar Chuck Taylor All Star high top- this time in white with sheer-blue vulcanized rubber soles, the iconic construction-red zip tie, and his signature quotes around the word “vulcanized” printed along the midsole- and the moody red “Chicago” remodel of the most praised, OG shoe of all time: the Jordan 1 Retro High. Abloh had thousands of people waiting online and on the street to get a pair of “The Ten” collection. After selling out in minutes on Nike’s shoe app SNKRS, Abloh’s designs only increased in value. Stock X- a major platform for streetwear and sneaker reselling- was blown up with people trying to get a pair of the limited edition collection, no matter the price. The average resell value of sneakers from “The Ten” on Stock-X ranged from $500-for the least popular- to $3,000 for the most demanded. Many outsiders to the sneaker world would find that outrageous, but for collectors and connoisseurs it is a must-have. The shoes are sleek, pleasing, and cohesive; they’re captivating; they’re a statement piece. Since this legendary drop, Virgil kicked 2018 off with an exclusive black and silver Air Force 1, which released exclusively in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He followed it up with multiple other drops, including a futuristic black Vapormax with clear blue soles that came in March of 2018; A collaborative collection with tennis pro Serena Williams succeeded this. It included the graceful and boldly feminine winter rose Air Max 97: aptly named “Queen.” Two halloween themed Blazer’s- one in scarecrow beige with an oversized pumpkin orange swoosh across the side, deemed the “All Hallows Eve,” and the other- the “Grim Reaper” in sleek black and charcoal grey.

Abloh’s unconventional way of approaching fashion and his openness to working with others have brought his designs into the spotlight. Diagonal lines, which he commented on as a being tool to “help [him] solve a huge issue, how to take a bunch of random things and let them be one,” are reminiscent of his own ability to take the inspirations, ideas, and inputs of different contributors and bring them all together into one cohesive piece. As fashion evolves further, Abloh will likely continue to be a major factor in the direction that streetwear heads and continue to inspire the world of fashion around him.