Tom Sachs Virgil Abloh Apolis


“Me in fashion is sort of a joke,” said Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White and Kanye West’s creative right-hand man. “I don’t take it that seriously.”

Abloh made the comment during the Apolis’ Speaking Series with Tom Sachs and Barneys New York’s creative ambassador Simon Doonan, who moderated the chat.

The talk, which took place at Apolis’ TriBeCa location, began with 20 rapid-fire questions covering everything from the underwear they wear — Abloh prefers Supreme black boxers while Sachs wears Zimmerli boxer briefs — to how they self-soothe — e-mails for Abloh and Amazon Prime for Sachs. But the discussion eventually moved into deeper territory when they expounded on their creative processes, their feelings about Trump and fashion in general. Here, the highlights.

On creating Off-White:

Virgil Abloh: For me it’s one big art project. And it’s these clothes and the things that I make that are just sort of a means to paint a bigger picture that fashion should have a brand that has someone behind it that cares about different context, different social things and different landscapes.

On hating fashion — but not really hating it:

Tom Sachs: I don’t know if I’m against fashion. I love the way Chanel looks on my wife. [I don’t like] the advertising aspect of it that contributes to her body dysmorphia. Buy this dress and you will get the guy, lose this weight and you will get the better job, or whatever. But there’s another side. The other half is fashion seasons and things go in and out of fashion. I’ve been wearing the same tie for 30 years. It’s called planned obsolescence, or to be technical, perceived obsolescence, and those things prevent us from buying or making heirloom products. I like things that last.

On creating in a Trump era:

T.S.: I haven’t wept yet. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but it’s coming. I don’t know, but all I can say is if you think it’s bad now, it’s only going to get worse.

V.A.: How can this be a battery in the back for us? I was in Italy. I woke up and got this alert on my phone. Everyone has the same story, but I’m telling it like it’s only happened to me. Those series of words and the notification on my phone seemed surreal, like a joke, but our reality is what we make it. So I’m like f–k it, if this isn’t going to be the spark for young kids [to do more] then nothing will be.

On making clothes younger people can’t afford: 

V.A.: An Off-White T-shirt is like 200 bucks, and a hoodie is like $300. Don’t let Zara and Uniqlo educate you on the price of a garment because that’s not fashion. That’s McDonald’s. Your health is tied to that 99-cent nugget. Anyone who has sent a FedEx to a different country before [knows] customs and duties are a real thing. Or buying fabric or paying someone a healthy wage to make something [costs money, too]. Of course my brand is inspired by the youth, but I wouldn’t say that it’s directly made for the youth. It’s who I am.

On attending architecture school:

T.S.: I was hazed out of architecture school. I didn’t have what it takes. But I dropped out to become an artist. I think it’s the most underpaid, overqualified, frustrating thing. Frank Gehry told me that architecture had been replaced by engineering. I’m interested in the engineering but the only thing I hate worse than fashion is industrial design. Full offense intended.

V.A.: In large part creatively I think I was asleep for a while after being an architect. My first degree was in instructional engineering — it was super boring. My parents are from Ghana, West Africa. They came here and their dream was to have a kid here graduate college, and I was into skateboarding, graffiti and DJing. I was like: ‘You pick a degree.’ The least I could do is be an awesome kid that doesn’t put up a fight and talk back to his parents and keep it moving.

On creative rituals:

V.A.: The only creative ritual that I have is pressure. The pressure I put on myself or the pressure of deadlines or to live up to expectations.

T.S.: Bullet number 17 is always go to work before you check your e-mail or read the New York Times. You spend eight hours with your subconscious dreaming. Don’t waste that by taking the world in, go out. So immediately write in your journal, make ceramics, but do something that’s getting something out instead of taking it in. It’s an essential survival tool for all creative people.

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