The invitation for Off-White’s men’s show in Paris read “Business Casual,” but dress codes are never quite what they seem in Virgil Abloh’s world.
He treated the concept as a jumping-off point for a riff on late Eighties and early Nineties references — the era when, as a high school student, he fantasized about what his life as an adult might look like. “My future was like: white picket fence, a dog. I thought I might be carrying a briefcase,” the designer said backstage.
As we all know, that didn’t quite work out for the man who gained fame as Kanye West’s creative director. Yet, as he and his fellow streetwear designers tighten their grip on men’s wear, Abloh likes to imagine how a new generation of business leaders might dress.
His fall lineup opened with his take on a gray pinstriped suit: Its boxy jacket cropped to reveal an embroidered logo over one hip, it was paired with a gray sweatshirt and beige suede boots. A glazed denim version featured a white spray-painted lapel, in a wry meeting of skateboarding and boardroom cultures.
In step with Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, who paid homage to corporate codes with his fall 2017 collection, Abloh added a normcore component to the lineup, pairing an electric blue Windbreaker with black pants and a generic shirt and tie.
“My youthful generation, we sort of veered away from that and we have our own aesthetic, but I don’t want to just discard it, to say, ‘Hey, T-shirt, hoodie and jeans is the new suit.’ I want to make the archetype, but have embedded in it youthfulness — the seriousness and the restraint,” he explained.
Abloh gave staples such as sweatshirts and polo tops a twist — literally — by having their seams curve around the body. Fans of the label’s printed merch will still get their seasonal fix: fresh takes included a white shirt printed with a Beastie Boys flyer, and a black Goretex track suit worn under a chic tailored coat.
“I always dreamed that the future ceo’s, the future business manager, the future lawyers are just kids that grew up listening to rock, skateboarding, going to raves, going to fashion parties and hearing this sort of mix of culture, and so I just wanted to tell that story: what does the future of business attire look like?” he said.
Yet the show delivered a mixed message. While Abloh has made no secret of his ambition to follow in Gvasalia’s footsteps and work for a major luxury group, he opened the show with a monologue by Charles Bukowski in which the writer described his aversion to the “eight-hour job.” Perhaps Abloh, who thrives on perpetual motion, is sitting on that white picket fence.