As he gears up for the first museum exhibition of his work, Virgil Abloh has been delving into his childhood obsessions. His fall men’s show was titled “Public Television,” an exploration of his favorite shows growing up, from American children’s TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” to sports broadcasts.
But this was no warm, fuzzy trip down memory lane. Abloh, a moving target if ever there was one, doesn’t do nostalgia — even as he prepares for the show of his career highlights so far at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, opening in June.
“I don’t look back. I’ve never been one to stop and think. I’m always going forward. I think that’s why getting this exhibit together had me for the first time even caring to look at old things. I’m less into things, but more into why we as humans in art or fashion, or outside of that, respond to things and what makes our taste,” he said.
Growing up in Rockford, Ill., his aesthetic was shaped by watching everything from basketball legend Michael Jordan to businesspeople — hence the wide range of references spilling onto the runway. Oversize suit jackets were paired with voluminous jeans, as if a Nineties skater kid had borrowed his father’s clothes.
Switching channels with abandon, Abloh paired a checked suit with a football helmet, and a fur-collared khaki wool coat with drawstring-waisted jeans.
Rapper Offset ambled down the runway in a supersized lilac down coat, his pace only equaled by Playboi Carti, who wore pants in a poisonous color that matched the green room set. T-shirts featured the illustration on the show invitation: a leering figure extending his hands.
“It’s the evil nature of TV,” Abloh explained. “You know, TV seems honest, but it obviously isn’t.”
While the soundtrack zapped between Ghostface Killah and a newscaster’s account of a Twitter-addicted president, Abloh didn’t dwell on the darkness. Instead, he offered a highlight reel of brand hits, including bulky sweaters with intarsia logo motifs and trailing utility belts.
Officially the world’s hottest brand — per the quarterly listing of global fashion search platform Lyst — Off-White now has a global audience. And with Abloh in charge of programming, its ratings show no signs of waning.