Plastic: once hailed as a miracle material, now condemned as a major pollutant — and possibly about to be considered a work of art, according to Virgil Abloh.
The designer’s customary clear plastic invitation for his Off-White show this season came printed with the word “plastic” — in quote marks, naturally — in one of the meta statements he has made a signature of the brand. “It’s using it as a metaphor,” Abloh explained backstage at the show, using one of his favorite terms.
“Within our generation, a banal term all of a sudden turns into a whole different context, basically in a matter of moments. Plastic is this material that was man-made to be very useful in different circumstances, and this invite, which I do every season, it’s now transformed into an artwork,” he explained.
Underscoring the fleeting nature of value, street artists who were once seen as vandals now command stratospheric prices, Abloh said. He noted that a painting by Kaws sold for $14.7 million, largely above its $1 million estimate, at a sale of streetwear designer Nigo’s art collection held at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in April.
Abloh wrote the foreword for the auction catalogue, and tapped Futura, a contemporary of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, for the prints in this collection. The two of them handpainted the first look, a white coat, top and pants worn by rapper Sheck Wes, on the street in Paris the day before the show.
Futura’s art works also appeared as prints in the show finale, including an oversized blazer worn by Gigi Hadid. The rest of the show could be read as a riff on environmental concerns, with an aquatic theme emerging by way of inky tie-dye prints, ocean blue quilted jackets and amoeba-shaped appliqué motifs.
Patchwork knit capes and Nineties skater looks nodded to the mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” For the worst-case scenario, Abloh offered sheer plastic rain gear and a white hazmat suit. Was any of it registering with his audience, which included Victor Cruz, Lewis Hamilton, Russell Westbrook, Swae Lee, J Balvin and Maluma?
It was hard to tell, especially as the finale muddled the message, with models trampling through a field of white carnations as The Beatles’ classic “Blackbird” played overhead. Abloh salvaged one of the flowers and tossed it to his wife Shannon in the front row. Then the carnage resumed as guests stampeded for the exit.