“To the modern generation, music and fashion are not seen as separate works of art,” says Virgil Abloh, 35, and he should know: as the founder of buzzy Milan-based luxury/streetwear brand Off-White, a sought-after DJ, and Kanye West’s creative director, his entire life revolves around the nexus of the two.
His lines for men and women, both of which made Paris runway debuts this year, mix high fashion tailoring and draping with an edgy street ethos. The Chicago-raised Abloh takes inspiration from graffiti art (“my first and only art class in my high school years”), skateboarding, concert tees and the music of his ’90s youth -- “everything from N.W.A to Nirvana.” His signature stripes and effortlessly cool blend of high and low have endeared him to musicians from Beyoncé to Bieber, and has earned him critical acclaim as the line’s progressed since its late-2013 inception. In 2015, the self-taught Abloh (who earned his masters in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology) got the stamp of approval from the fashion elite with a nomination for the prestigious LVMH Prize, which supports burgeoning designers.
More than anything, he’s driven by “the bright-eyed optimism of youth culture,” he says, speaking from Indianapolis while overseeing the first night of Kanye West’s 39-date Saint Pablo tour. “Fashion and music are two great artistic forms that can be molded by the youth culture -- our taste and our passion for evolving things in our limited time on earth allows us to look at things with fresh eyes. I created Off-White and I DJ now more than I ever have in my life as ways to stay in tune with a younger self.”