Virgil Abloh was known for many things; first and foremost his work, his ability to bring communities together, and most profoundly his unwavering commitment to uplifting Black voices. He was a paragon of Black excellence in action and in his too-short time spent on this earth, he did his best to if not remove, then shine a light on the path forward for those looking to follow in his footsteps. That's why for a man who famously said, "You can do it too", opening Virgil Abloh's final collection for Off-White with snippets from a Pharrell Williams interview proved fitting.
"Share the codes… share the cheat codes. A lot of us had to figure it out ourselves… that’s where we go wrong,” Pharrell's voice implored. “The more of us that learn the codes, the stronger we are.” As Virgil and his team pass the baton at Off-White in line with a blueprint LVMH recently revealed the designer laid out before his death, his last collection doubled down on its usual presence of codes, in a final exchange of information and insight into the late designer's mind.
Presented in three parts, the Off-White show was more celebratory than sombre, picking up where Louis Vuitton left off with it's menswear tribute also in Paris in January. The first section was designated to ready-to-wear and carved out space to acknowledge all that has come before, including Abloh's untimely passing. In a kind of self-eulogy, hulking hoodies, knee length boots with loose-fitting folds, puffer vests, cargo pants and letterman jackets all cascaded out in a monochromatic palette. Then, the spectacle we were waiting for emerged. A model entered the showspace, dressed in all white and shouldering a flag that bore the phrase, "Question Everything".
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At once the show shifted. A misty white fog hung over the guests and the clothes took on a heavenly, ethereal quality. After all, the brief was space and all who were present knew they had taken a ride on 'Spaceship Earth' as the show was called. If the previous chunk was Abloh's own in memoriam than this second interval was the designer bringing it back to Off-White's roots. Lemony slip dresses filed in, punctured knits and slouchy oversized tailoring. Here lay the core values of Off-White, available to refer to for whoever would inherit the brand next, as per Virgil's wishes.
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A life cut short means dreams left unrealised, and being a man of many ideas it seemed the next frontier for Virgil Abloh was couture. So if the three sections of the show could be categorised as past, present and future, then the third portion charted a path forward for the brand: couture. This was the real showstopper. Serena Williams, both Hadid sisters, Adut Akech, Kaia Gerber, Candice Swanpoel, Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner stepped out wearing intensely laboured over pieces. There was a voluminous puffy-sleeved gown. A shimmering black bodice echoed the sentiment that "snitches get stitches". At one point a hazy blue gown appeared dripping with Hollywood glamour and a new found edge. Then came the old guard. Amber Valletta, Cindy Crawford, Mariacarla Boscono, Helena Christensen, a smoking (quite literally) Karen Elson, and naturally Naomi Campbell to elevate this haute couture dream (sans appellation).
As the lineup of famous faces disappeared, there was one more look left. The high octane pace instantly slowed as a model stepped out in a grand white tulle skirt sprayed with blue graffiti and a wrap around bodice and signature Off-White flat cap. It was a moment of stillness, of calm. As though through this heavenly figure, Virgil came to see what reaction his work had elicited. The answer? A deep and resounding awe.
Watch the Off-White Fall 2022 show, below.