One had to do a bit of pushing and careening to get into Off-White’s show, held at elegantly appointed L’Université Paris Descartes, on Thursday night. A crowd of fans, lacking invitations, lined up hoping to get a standing room ticket to see what designer Virgil Abloh had in store — or at least a glimpse of his long-time creative collaborator, Kanye West, who slipped into the venue with a sheer-clad Kim Kardashian West, Kourtney Kardashian and Kris Jenner via a separate entrance some 40 minutes after the show was scheduled to start.
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After they had taken their seats (which were really squares of foam, and offered one a core workout akin to sitting on an exercise ball), the show began. This season’s theme was “Business Woman,” and Abloh made several different proposals for the modern work uniform, which ranged from deconstructed oxfords and blue jeans to strong-shouldered blazers (certainly reminiscent of the ‘80s power suit) given a contemporary spin when paired with track pants and crisp white sneakers. The silhouettes were often menswear-inspired, but there was plenty of the unabashedly feminine in there, too: sequined heels, long earrings, a flowing silk jumpsuit. Red, black and white were the predominant colors and they read powerfully.
Speaking before the show, Abloh said he had been inspired by the film “Working Girl” — though he had never actually seen it. “ I often don’t sort of go to the bottom of my inspiration, the theory of it is good enough,” he explained. He wanted to design clothes for the women he himself is friends with: “They’re empowered, they pay their own bills, they have their own style, they again wear clothes, the clothes don’t wear them.”
What do such women wear? In the ‘80s, it was a power suit — back when, Abloh explained, it was about “a woman fitt[ing] in like a man’s shoe and tak[ing] a man’s position.”
“Of course in the collection there are abstracted ideas of what a suit is, and there’s also a hoodie, a hoodie is just as important as a suit,” he went on to explain. “A girl can go to work in a military jacket and jeans. That is just as much of a power suit as would have been thought of in the ‘80s.”
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Abloh has been steadily expanding Off-White’s business, opening stores in Tokyo and Singapore in recent months, and also expanding the accessories line-up, particularly the bags. Walking out after the show, guests were surprised to see two men arranging the samples out on a blanket, like a grab-bag of counterfeits Louis Vuittons or Chanels being sold off Canal Street, and yelling out prices. “We’re doing see-now, buy-now,” one of the staffers explained. One couldn’t leave with a bag, but could place a pre-order.
It was a clever, tongue-in-cheek gesture — just the kind of thing you’d expect of Abloh.