The Limit Does Not Exist: Off-White™
Often times entering higher education, we are faced with the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ as it is believed that our studies must reflect this desired professional destination. People fail to consider that the purpose of higher education is not necessarily to learn a trade or specific skill, rather to supply students with extensive knowledge which then can be applied to a professional field. Thus, education should not particularly teach us how to do, rather how to think, in which we then apply to our evolving world. This mentality is portrayed by the wildly successful Virgil Abloh, most recognized for his brand Off-White™. The success of this brand is perhaps credited to Abloh’s mentality as the brand thoughtfully considers consumerism and creation in its entirety. In a lecture, Abloh reveals that he studied architecture on the graduate level. Abloh shares during his first class a professor announced to the students within this introductory level that only a few students would actually graduate and set out to do accomplish what architects intend to do, build buildings. The intent of this comment was to diminish the general optimism of the students, exposing them to this harsh reality. However, this statement had the reverse impact on Abloh as he found comfort in this sentiment. He understood that he did not choose to study architecture to build buildings, following what is expected within this school of thought. He then indicates “young architects can change the world by not building buildings.” Initially appearing as a controversial statement, Abloh seeks to empower the student body to extend beyond the confined expectations within the field of architecture. Abloh embodies this concept within Off-White™ as he incorporates his architectural knowledge of space and structure, which he then applies to fulfill a need or sentimental based value within society.
Abloh seeks to challenge norms within our world, most evident within fashion as Off-White™ counters this conception of ‘high-fashion’. The brand is rather based on the anti-elite nature of street culture, while appearing in international fashion weeks and featuring the most notable figures within the industry. Abloh ironically shares that he would not consider himself as a fashion designer as the term does not resonate with him, despite the success of his clothing line. Abloh refers to himself as merely a thinker, creating in our modern climate. Abloh also reveals that his drive to create is stemmed from his dissatisfaction with what is presented to him. His projects scale beyond confined platforms, touching on a visual and tonal level, evident in his creations and collaborations within music, fashion, architecture, and etc. Abloh merges his vast knowledge, attained through higher education as well as cultural experiences, to craft pieces portraying a raw originality that lacks within contrived schools of thought. Thus, knowledge and production may not stand as a sole field, rather an expansive platform, inviting creation on both an aesthetic and practical level. As indicated by Allan Kaprow, “The young artist of today need no longer say 'I am a painter,' or 'a poet,' or 'a dancer.' He is simply an 'artist.' All of life will be open to him.” As a creator, artist and even a mere thinker, the limit does not exist.
Image source: https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2019-ready-to-wear/off-white