Virgil Abloh’s last show – The New York Times

PARIS – “Everything in question.”

Those words, written in block letters, were the motto for Virgil Abloh, a barrier-breaking designer, artist, DJ, furniture maker and interlocutor; founder of Off-White and artistic director of menswear Louis Vuitton; a man who used to be described himself as “cultural Robin Hood – steal from snobs and give it back to some children”; who passed away unexpectedly in November at the age of 41.

Those words were at the heart of his first retrospective, “Figures of Speech,” held at the 2019 Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. And they were hoisted on a fluttering flag on Monday, the first day of Paris Fashion Week, in the last Off-White show hosted by Mr. Abloh imagined before his death.

Which in itself was a retrospective – a tour of the fundamental “codes” (as she called them out loud) that he established for the brand, and an argument for their ability to move it further – and a leap into the future, with a new haute couture collection and cosmetics line.

After all, Mr. Abloh thought of these words as words not only for memory but for life: Yes, why can’t a brand continue even when its founder is a man considered by many not only his heart and mind, but his personification , is gone? And who says that a guy who started with the goal of creating a wearable dialogue between street and ready-to-wear clothes shouldn’t try his hand at fashion?

Therefore, the event was not emphasized as a memorial, but as a celebration. And despite the gloomy global situation, it was so.

Rihanna and ASAP Rocky were there. Like Pharrell Williams. Carla Bruni, former First Lady of France. Idris Elba. Designers Olivier Rousteing from Balmain, Jonathan Anderson from Loewe and Tremaine Emory from Supreme. Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, and José Neves, CEO of Farfetch, which owns the New Guards Group, an Italian manufacturer that helped create and nurture Off-White.

Everyone sits in chairs set around the perimeter of a large white room, with a huge crystal chandelier and an equally elaborate amplifier arranged in the middle, watching the Ablohizam parade emerge: looks for men and women born from different traditions in animated conversation. Black sweaters and body dresses came with asteroid-shaped necklines; Mohair suit on top; the lowered leather goods were decorated with perfectly geometric pockets.

Thongs are pulled up and over the hips under the micro miniskirts. Jacquard is made with a graffiti print. There were giant soft ranches and big alpine boots on a fluffy chunky heel with appliquéd pot leaves. Quoted phrases. At one point, Serena Williams came out, in a stretchy fishnet dress over a tie-dyed bodysuit.

Oh, hello, Serena.

Later, for the haute part, seemingly every supermodel under the sun did it. Kendall Jenner wore a black little black dress with sequins with the inscription “little black dress” on the side (whose simpler version appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art “Camp” in 2019). Cindy Crawford, an extravagant pleated tulle skirt in layers under a cropped tuxedo and T-shirt, with a see-through purse full of tablets. Naomi Campbell, shiny turquoise trousers made of ground velvet under a long evening coat with a matching top hat and the inscription “respectfully” on the back. There was also a crystal embroidered bust with a universal “no” sign on the front along with the word “Snitchin”.

In other words, it was fairly convincing proof that the foundations laid by Mr. Abloh were solid. That, if it used to be the epitome of the brand, it could also serve as its northern star.

And while – like the central flag itself – he may have started quoting almost anything and every designer, in the end his words and his work were quoted by themselves.

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