Virgil Abolh is a celebrated designer, raised in Chicago. He has earned a degree in Civil Engineering (University of Wisconsin), and went onward to peruse architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2009, Virgil’s focus shifted from architecture to fashion. It was in the same year he was appointed as Creative Head at Kayne West’s creative agency ‘Donda.’ In 2012, he started his own label ‘Pyrex Vision’ that would focus on street fashion. In 2013 Pyrex shut shop and Abolh launch ‘Off White’ a brand catering to luxury men and women’s street-wear collection. Over the years the designer partnered with numerous industry stalwarts of the like of Jimmy Choo, IKEA, and many more. *Begin the slow clap now*
But how did a man of color get an opportunity to make his mark in the Fashion industry?
The entire eco-system of fashion has always fallen prey to the whims of racism. Industry elites have subtly voiced their opinion by using exclusion as a tool and amplifying their concerns. As a teenager, it confused me when I learned that designers like Tommy Hilfiger would cater only to the white. The designer suddenly comprehended the nuances of profits, when exposed to the brown skin market, that was brimming with unrealistic, unmatched potential! So much from the land of snake charmers…*wink*
But then there were the likes of Virgil Abloh, who is now named as one of the busiest designers in the fashion industry and has been appointed by the venerated fashion house, Louis Vuitton. I will not really question, ‘How did that happen?’ as that isn’t the right question, since the man’s talent speaks volumes! But I can certainly not the lasting benefits of such an appointment of this stature.
The ‘post racial’ era (A term coined by ex-POTUS, Barak Obama) opened the color clan to a larger gamut of things, in every walk of life. They have been able to break through the glass ceiling. Acceptance of color skin was inherently translated as being human, which obviously ridiculed racism as a term by itself.
via Hollywood Reporter
The onset of this change was slow and sure. Naomi Campbell and her partner Iman left no stones unturned to bring about this change. They did this by making people realize; fashionists have been unintentionally ignoring people of color on prestigious Runway Projects, whether they understood what they were doing or not. Somewhere after 2010, the London Fashion Week saw a huge change as the ramp suddenly has people of color walking onto it. Not only this; but designers too were given an opportunity to showcase their collection, and were warmly received by onlookers, giving them the impetus to open to a new market.
The radical change has given prominence to designers and models of color alike, to display their talent on the runway, taking culture, tradition, art and overall expression and talent on global stance earning deserving recognition. This has been quite the case with Virgil’s work.
According to the designer, initially he purchased things just because it appealed to him. But his creative juices gushed, encouraging him to render meaning to his form of expression. Today, he views things from a different perspective. He adds that any design is good, but a design can only get better, if it has the added value of meaning and expression behind it. Take notes aspiring designers, this is the perfect inspirational quote to every upcoming designer out there!
Olivier Rousteing, Virgil Abloh & LaQuan Smith
So what really got Virgil there? The designer has certainly made it through his lasting hard work. Like every other designer he saw the street-wear trend rise, but there was little done to make it more tangible and take it to a different and heightened level. He did so very simplistically by using expressions in the form of color, words, quotes, and style.
According to industry critiques, this appointment is a small victory in a fight against racism, however it is very short-lived. The appointment could possibly lead to the more emphatic enforcement of racism in anything concerning the elite, and fashion is something that cannot be overlooked.
But according to us, this is indeed an ice-breaker. If it isn’t here to live it will at least prove to become an inspiration to other upcoming designers to eradicate this social evil through their work.
Written by Heer Kothari