The Agender Agenda: Virgil Abloh
Part seven of a series
Tearing down tired taboos and referencing nostalgic throwbacks to the naughties, neutrois, street style, moody fashion and murky aesthetic undercurrents, creatives like Kaimin, Christopher Shannon, Stéphane Ashpool, Shayne Oliver, Marcelo Burlon and boychild are setting the tone for unflinching individualism and a brazen disregard for gender expectations. This alpha crop of originators, amongst others, are rattling up the fashion world with their take on gender fluidity, andro-glam, the street, epicene beauty, and invigorating, liberating aesthetics—just think of Shayne Oliver’s indelible id explorations, or Rick Owens’ provocative pecker flaps, or boychild’s glitched-out, autoerotic ka-pows. These avant-guardians are embracing the art world’s post-modern, post-gender transgressive sensibility. Call it the new ‘Agender Agenda’—that is, fashion that celebrates crossover culture, sexual iconoclasm, radical openness and transpersonal progress. That means macho suits and machine gun boots for chicks, skirts, shift shirts, and plexiglass collars for dudes, and ontological-esthetic upheavals across-the-board—what the futurist Ray Kurzweil calls “a phase change in the consciousness of man.” It’s a cultural stirring that at once tethers and liberates gender identity and reveals the ambivalence and elasticity of social archetypes. It’s no wonder that trans trailblazers like Andreja Pejić, Hari Nef, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner are fashion’s shit-hot avatars, ripping up the web, burning up pop-culture and breaking down gender binaries; and auteurs like Wu Tsang, Dia Dear and Junglepussy provide killer, campy cosmographies and trans-femme perspectives that enlighten and inform us all. Phhhhewww, post-modernism never felt so good—and the clothes look pretty fuckin’ cool, too! Here are a few of our fave disruptors and déconstructors, with quick-fire Q&A’s to follow. KA-BOOM!
OFF-WHITE | Virgil Abloh is the wicked-cool wunderkind behind avant-garde label OFF-WHITE
Operating at the intersection of esoteric art and underground sound, Virgil Abloh’s avant-garde apparel, installations, and sonic experiments offer a multi-faceted take on the 21st century urban brand. With a background in engineering and architecture, a Hood by Air collaborator, Yeezy’s creative accomplice, and part of the #BEENTRILL# posse, Virgil launched OFF-WHITE in 2K14, an extraordinary, exploratory framework for making hybrid fashion and street style mash-ups. His hyper-cool collections, which take their cues from skate culture (think World Industries, Supreme and Palace) as well as cryptic art and music genres, oddball architecture, stark graphics and various digital domains, is all about pushing artistic parameters to the nth degree. Virgil employs social coding as an integral part of his oeuvre, exploring dicey textile tinkering, tribal expressions, gender roles and subcultures (like Z-Boys, Baja surf culture and South Park outfits). His signature motif is a pattern of sublime white stripes contrasted with and hyper-stylized over myriad materials, fabrics and objets d’art. Virgil deftly mines DIY and youth cultures for inspiration, as well as gender boundaries, artisanal methods, mystical music and plenty of pop. Through OFF-WHITE, he interrogates the shadowy space between surface and subtext, id and ego, fashion and anti-fashion.
What’s your aesthetic strategy all about?
Street style is the motif with momentum these days, and we’re in the age of mixing-and-matching high and low regardless of gender: girls wearing unisex Comme des Garçons, for instance, and Air Force One high tops; guys sporting Balenciaga kilts, Supreme caps with Timberland kicks. My aim is to create a brand that complements that kind of ‘syncretic-aesthetic.’ As a designer, I draw from the culture and climate I’m immersed in: the music, the art, the street, the zeitgeist and my inspirations and interpretations of it. That’s the sort of aesthetic premise that underpins OFF-WHITE, and that’s my strategy.
What label/designer, in your view, represents the top-dog iconoclast today?
I think someone like Shayne from HBA represents the highest form of that. Kanye, too, has a prescient/subversive fashion vision; he’s on the verge of taking that vision to the next level, commercially and otherwise.
A photo posted by OFF-WHITE c/o VIRGIL ABLOH™ (@off____white) on
Do you create clothes with your own wardrobe and personal style in mind?
Yeah, but it’s deeper than that. I’ve spent a lot of time in my career designing for other people and helping to manifest their visions. This project is completely mine; it’s my singular vision with my own skin in the game.
Do you have a muse in mind when designing?
She’s basically a global style girl: the girl at the Chateau, the girls in Paris at Hôtel Costes, etc. Whether Hari Nef or Devan Mayfield, it’s a muse who can do both high/low fashion, or more interesting: make high look more street yet really refined.
What are some of your aspirations?
I want to do lifestyle, not just clothing, projects going forward. I’m going to make furniture and interior ornaments that will be intellectual and avant-garde with a streetwise, bleeding edge aesthetic.