Virgil Abloh

In this video produced for the exhibition “Virgil Abloh: ‘Figures of Speech’” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Abloh discusses his wide-ranging influences and the creative philosophy that has shaped his career in fashion and beyond.

Virgil Abloh discusses his wide-ranging influences and the creative philosophy that has shaped his career in fashion and beyond.

Virgil Abloh Video Transcript

The process and the end product are equally as valuable. I embrace imperfection as much as I embrace the pursuit of perfection.

I grew up in Rockford, Illinois. It was amazing. I felt like I was just an average kid from the middle of nowhere.

[Music from “A Team with No Sport”]

To me, the first creative gesture was always skateboarding or graffiti. Pyrex Vision was sort of an early phase of making art. The intent was a film. It was a group of kids invading lower Manhattan and making it the sort of city they saw. And that was mixing established designers with streetwear brands that were sort of owners of their own space, but the combination made something new.

It attempted to document that sort of pivotal moment in culture at the time. The feedback toward me was like, “Oh, there’s room for a new type of fashion design.”

And with that, I started Off-White as this seasonal fashion sort of language concept, post this idea of streetwear, this idea of fashion looking for a change.

[Music]

I see the term “streetwear” as more of a catchphrase to define a way of making than what people might determine it as a style of clothing.

In my eyes, it’s an art movement less a fashion trend. I decided my fingerprint was how the work is positioned.

You know, and I use this overriding sort of construct between tourist and purist to sort of categorize the type of work that I’m trying to do. A purist can find value in meaning based on an underlying premise.

Whereas a tourist has curiosity, ambition, and is willing to sort of seek out, to sort of, you know, pacify that need to see something or to know about it.

So, I like to make work that attracts both.

I come from a generation that was finding this newfound freedom in being ironic.

It was like a dual language happening at the same time, you know, the presiding generation with, like, “this is how it’s always been done,” but the internet sort of cracking open this sort of language that became almost impenetrable by a big brand.

But I say that all getting to the idea of quotes: it’s the ability to say two things at one time.

The crescendo is after, you know, a lifetime of learning and sort of the push and pull of how pop culture dictates taste, is I’ve been identifying with the power of advertising.

How that, at its essence, is what drives culture. You know, it drives taste. It drives decisions. It drives everything from an election to, like, what you’d have for lunch.

My obsession with brand or sort of trying to understand brand or who was behind it. That was the essential emotion that prevented me from believing I could be in a brand because I felt I didn’t relate to this figurative brand.

So a lot of my fine art is about demystifying and communicating, again, to a tourist and a purist, that these powerful loaded images are in some ways more impactful to society than, you know, quote, unquote art or, you know, anything else.

I don’t feel responsible to a preconceived notion of art.

I feel more responsible to a community that is trying to change the tide, or to sort of live in an optimistic society that art, design, music, and fashion actually change the world for the better.