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Off-White: Virgil no-show at Pompidou

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today Sep 27, 2019
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It is hard to imagine a more contemporary designer than Virgil Abloh, who staged his latest show inside France’s greatest temple to contemporary art, the Pompidou Centre. But then was nowhere to be seen.


Off White - Spring-Summer2020 - Womenswear - Paris - © PixelFormula


 
Earlier this month, Abloh said he was scaling back his efforts after medical advice. The designer and DJ has two competing jobs – at Off-White and Louis Vuitton.
 
The decision comes in the wake of the acquisition of the Italian fashion group New Guards – of which Off-White is the most valuable asset for the astronomical sum of $675 million by Farfetch. Which caused the etailer’s share to collapse by 40%.

However, informed sources in Milan suggest another reason for Abloh’s fatigue. New Guard Group is believed to hold a 25-year license to Off-White, which was part of the Farfetch deal, whereas the actual brand name, Off-White, which the designer controls, was not. Meaning, Abloh rather remarkably did not benefit at all financially from this much-ballyhooed acquisition.
 
That said, many observers might quibble about the range of Abloh’s talent in terms of draping or cutting fabric. But as a man of ideas, most especially of images that resonate with the general public, he has no real rival today.
 


Off White - Spring-Summer2020 - Womenswear - Paris - © PixelFormula


 Take one item that the vast majority of women have very few of in their wardrobe – the ball gown, which Virgil send out open at the back, flowing to the ground and in parachute nylon. He has more or less reinvented it as a cool category.
 
The French have a philosophical school of thought called semiotics – the study of signs, allegories, analogies, metaphors and above all signifiers.
 
Well, no designer today has more signifiers than Abloh. Who has an uncanny ability to dream up eye-catching script and concepts.
 
Take his wedges in either seaweed-like faux-fur straps or in stiff leather with cut outs; or his triangular earrings or above all, his latest bags riddled with three-inch-wide holes. Above all, his latest holster belts with side pockets, which his expensive cast – that included Gigi and Bella Hadid – wore with such pride. And that will all ignite huge trends.


Off White - Spring-Summer2020 - Womenswear - Paris - © PixelFormula



But best of all were the simple white cotton tanks, just a little sheer, with cut-out sides and finished at the neckline with the word Off.  A deceptively simple idea that looked just perfect.
 
Simple cotton dresses cut with a faintly military collar and trim, worn by models with techy aviator glasses; natty micro fiber hooded raingear that finished at the calf; or spry leather pants – again with holes at the hip – tied at the ankle – were all highly flattering.  And many of them finished with exterior texts after the logo, Off-White by Virgil Abloh.
 
In a very real sense, Virgil has somehow or other rendered a whole gang of purportedly more skilled Parisian designers – Nicolas, Julien and Natacha to name a few – as, well, old-fashioned. His shows and clothes and attitude is so much more now.

Pre-show, a female voice boomed out of the loudspeaker referencing Alvin Ailey and speaking of “Avatars of human creativity,” which is not a bad way of describing Abloh. But, the question remained, in the wake of this show – where is Virgil?
 

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