Off-White Spring 2017 Menswear Collection
For all the scaling up that Virgil Abloh has achieved in three short years—his men’s collection was granted the penultimate spot on the official calendar, and stores in Soho, Tokyo, and Toronto are forthcoming—Off-White doesn’t yet qualify as established. For now, this works in Abloh’s favor; he can take bigger risks, fine-tune the brand identity, and exist as an outsider-insider.
Titled Mirror Mirror, his Spring collection was represented by an imposing image of Parisian architecture—except this wasn’t the actual building, but rather the trompe l’oeil scenography that often conceals construction projects around the city. “A brand can be 100 years old; but the outward facade versus what’s behind it can be totally different,” he explained.
So what’s behind Off-White? Essentially, Abloh’s random access theories on representation and authenticity, which speak to a perspective far broader than fashion. And they percolate outward more clearly with his menswear than his women’s, either because he relates better or because it’s ultimately a stricter realm. The screen-printed concert T-shirts and sweatpants that form his brand’s genetic code have evolved to knitwear with openwork holes and organza sheer enough to look sweat-drenched. The imagery mixed macabre with symbolic: A W-shaped serpent nailed to a cross that opened the show, followed by a ghoulish hand puncturing a trio of Fs as if someone had just yelled the only expletive that requires “off.” The scorpions seemed significant; as sequin appliques handcrafted in India and patched onto trousers, they were equally gratuitous and glamorous. The ample, high-waisted pants, along with the long coats, suggested liberal sampling; but then Abloh’s strength as a designer still largely comes from the fact that he is an unapologetic fan.
Hence a collection rife with riffs on memorabilia: a knitted portrait of Liam and Noel Gallagher, an appropriated WWII A-2 flight jacket in pliant leather, and soccer scarves heralding his brand. Abloh gave certain guests disposable “cameras” (like all things Off-White, they were packaged and branded in quotation marks) to document the moment from multiple perspectives.