Outside, T is trying to get in. He has a turtleneck on, Asics sneakers, yellow tinted frames and a bum bag slapped across his chest with a blunt buried inside. He has his socks, pulled high over his track pants and his sweater tied around his shoulders, in a nod to a faux prep sort of nostalgia, with a French rap twist. He likes Off White, and likes to attend Off-White shows, for the brand’s ability to let him interact with its core message and momentum, without necessarily having to buy any of it. He attends the shows on the off chance that he will get a glimpse of some new gear or better yet, hear an A Cappella version of a Frank Ocean song - some rare Virgil/Berg B-side snatch. You don’t look like you text. As legend has it, Frank Ocean arrived promptly to the last Off-White show and apparently handed out flyers to a roller skating party, he was trying to pull off in Paris, Frank Ocean’s Disco Inferno! Zip Zap. Yip Yap. And though T doesn’t buy any of it just yet (he will when he has coin), he does buy into it, heavily so, double time in fact, and he isn’t alone. Scrolling his instagram feed and who should appear? But a backstage snap of Kaia Gerber, standing arm and arm with Off White’s Virgil Abloh. The words across Kaia’s pic of them reads, “the legend himself, could he be any cooler!” Tip Tap. Yip Yap. Sweet 16 and she buys it and she bags it for her boo too.
And though not everyone does- buy in that is - as you perhaps already know, those that do, really, really do. They really, really, really do. And you’re glad they do.
VA: “I’m just trying to prove that elitism doesn’t work. That’s what fashion was founded upon, which is the antithesis of Street wear…. I don’t have the privilege or the knack to be elitist but I am interested in beauty and tradition…. Off-White-my definition is just one example of expression, you know. In a weird way, it puts the relevance to representing a community, before revenue. My brand started by printing t-shirts on other people’s garments which related to the time and it’s more about a young kid in the community looking at that and being inspired to do their version themselves, not saying that my version is the absolute right. You’re just watching a self-expression through clothing and runway shows and images.
I think the term ‘street wear’ gets tossed around a lot. In my mind, it’s a lifestyle. It’s how my friends and me know how to hang out on a bench for three hours and have a community. It’s an art movement to me and out of that comes an aesthetic... It’s about giving back to the community that I’m from and about raising the next generation through the work. I’m very much against keeping a closed source.
Virgil defers to his friends to fill us in on the idea of ART DAD-a term coined by Acyde and Tremaine Emory of No Vacancy Inn, both of whom are key members of the strong friendship circle you have seen with Virgil at Off white round tables, alongside the likes of Peter Saville, Benji B, Heron Preston and Guilluame Berg. ART DAD, they tell you, is essentially people who stay jiggy.
Acyde and Tremaine give examples of the ART DAD Spirit, and talk mostly about Kanye West and John Lennon and how certain people never seem to lose that sense of style whether they be releasing records or raising families. They cite Kanye at his ‘Season Three’ fashion show, the one at the MSG, when he came out and it was all “goodbye goatee, hello comfy, hello cozy”, as the moment that sparked the term, ART DAD. “Do you remember?” they ask you. And you do: The front row was his immediate family, the Kardashian clan in the cemented like silhouette of runway ready Balmain and there he was, there was Kanye, long sleeve Merch T, sweatpants, Dad Cap, all of it loose, like he had just had a stick of reality carefree gum.
It was this premise that had Virgil offer an Off White collaboration to this theme, to Acyde and Tremaine back in 2016. On these pages - their second seasonal ART DAD offering, as worn by fellow ART DADs, Maurizio Cattelan, Hailey Baldwin and clan.
So who else is ART DAD, you ask and they tell you this: John Lennon be THE ART DAD, Tilda Swinton be ART DAD. Kurt Cobain be ART DAD, Tom Sachs be ART DAD, Virgil be ART DAD and then they tell you that really ART DAD can be any person of any gender, of any age, of any race, who has gumption and then they say this. They saw Bjork at the airport recently and she looked like she was wearing mummy’s bandages and they just stared in awe. Obviously, Bjork be ART DAD. You think about John Lennon then and his ability to evolve, regardless of the public’s confusion, apprehension, disdain for the change even. You think of his dramatic transition from boy band to say “Two Virgins” and him naked with Yoko, held up and up all night and on the cover, being experimental, being avant garde. ART DAD exemple du jour. Later, you go back and listen to the BBC interview with Andy Pebbles, only two days before Lennon was shot down. It was all Lennon talking about Yoko, and how when they first met, she just gave him a card that said “BREATHE” and how he talks about his transition and the times, and the racial tension and how the Ku Klux Klan burning Beatles records, combined with his boredom was effectively what made him stop. “It was just the state of the world”, and you wonder then, has anything much changed? but maybe that’s another essay.
VA: I’m allergic to complacency.
Think of an explorer, in the classic history book context. It’s not just because we’re in the sort of modern age that you still can’t explore. I’m an explorer. I look... Like my New York day is, I wake up, get in the streets and I’ll find something, even in LA or even with a passport. It’s just being open-minded and you know, it’s like I’m forever an intern. That’s the other thing! Of course now there’s different levels of projects, but I have no ego.
My online presence isn’t my real self - it’s an edited tool that I’ve made as an expression. That’s an art project in itself. I’m allergic to complacency. It’s a generational thing. Like my generation definitely became critics. Like we figured out that being a critic was a good voice and I oppose that. You know, I’m always one for putting an idea on the table and NOT talking about why these ideas aren’t great. That’s just my frame of mind and I think that although I enjoy feedback, I also have a dialogue with my own internal instincts. I’m trying to live a life of self-expression, without any sort of hindrance and ‘is this okay or not?’
Virgil’s Menswear SS18 collaboration with Jenny Holzer, presented at Pitti Uomo this year, marked such progression, such exploration. They connected on words and wording, he says, and it was the first time Abloh had begun to talk about his own story to the press- a child of Ghanaian immigrants raised in Rockford, IL. The show caught people off guard; particularly those who weren't there, who tried to make sense of the dark atmospheric images on line, where seeing the clothes was sacrificed for the blasting of those HOLZER projections. The performance narrative, the political sentiment in said projections and the humanitarian message – Virgil’s priority. Jenny Holzer be ART DAD.
Though people will reject Off White at times, as is the case with all brands, the only thing Virgil Abloh ever rejects, is negativity. Anna Wintour must see something in this. She comes for a preview before the shows. “Get the florals out!” you hear people call, as the staff coats rumble about preparing anything in color, as it is true, Anna Wintour loves color. She comes to the shows too now, sunglasses on, backstage for a hug. She sees his potential, which the Nike “The Ten” collaboration only further accentuates. Abloh is soaring into a new level of top tier fashion endurance, both economically and on the relevance scales. People WANT those shoes.
New York, 2017 Online, M is furiously trying to buy some sneaks on his lunch break from his job reworking typefaces for fashion related clients. He wonders if he should call in a favor. He really wants ANY of the sneakers from “The Ten” collaboration between Nike and Virgil Abloh. Not yet, he tells himself, save the favors for Round Two. He looks online. EBay has the Jordan for just under 5k. Worth it! he thinks and saves them in his watch list. M lives in Tribeca and recently has been listening to the new James Murphy stuff. He loved LCD then and he loves the new beats now. He still believes in design, and still believes in an under cut and he still believes in Hedi Slimane - for his lifestyle. Living that monochromatic mega life, he muses.
M follows Celebrity Vice, a sort of metro man’s answer to Pérez Hilton, drinks six iced coffees a day and will wear Comme des garçons drop crotch pants as much as he will an Off White logo T, to an event whose invitation called for cocktail attire. He feels the T-shirt is the modern man’s tuxedo.
Virgil tells you he has been feeling reflective about street wear and then texts you a a link to the 1996 Beastie Boys instrumental album “The IN sounds from WAY OUT”, whilst you are on the phone together.... him walking though some airport terminal, no doubt rolling his Rimowa and you on the other line just trying to keep up. How many matchas can one man dig?
“The future of men’s fashion, in short, I think is getting more expressive. There’s maybe the least amount of boundaries. It’s like, ‘hey you can wear this, you can wear that, you can experiment but for me I want to get it better. You know, that last women’s wear show was super expressive. I want to see how expressive, but still masculine, we can go, now that we fully have got this feminine thing going. That zigzag for women was about giving me space.... to get out of this sort of murky unisex territory.
But at the end of the day, I’m still interested in skater kids that I see in New York City, that don’t give a fuck about fashion.”
Learning. Growing. Transitioning. Transforming. Still moving and changing... still trying to be better, but still just being himself.
the gumption and listening to abstract Beastie Boys songs, with titles like POW
- Virgil be ART DAD.