Virgil Abloh is a US fashion designer, who made his name working for Kanye West, and is now CEO of fashion label Off-White and artistic director of men’s at Louis Vuitton. The entrepreneur’s talent for moving seemlessly between disciplines and producing pieces and merch that resonate with millennials, and, crucially, sell like crazy, makes him the male Rihanna with art ambitions.
Following his recent slogan-rug line for Ikea, Abloh has partnered up with Vitra. His display «Twentythirtyfive» at Vitra Design Museum imagines how a living environment might change from now until 2035. It consists of curated pieces from the archives and three new elements by Abloh which are sold as limited editions. These include an update of the Jean Prouvé classics Potence Lamp (Petite Potence, 1/300, €1489) and Antony Chair (1/300, €2489). A ceramics household object (1/999, €149) serves as ‘baseline entry unit’ and can be used for storage.
At the opening, Abloh discussed his work and vision with Vitra director Nora Fehlbaum to select international press, VIPs and a crowd of rapturous disciples.
“You can’t walk into the past but you can enter the future,” Abloh explained the concept, adding “2035 is the future you can grab.”
So, what does his room of the future look like? Picture a 60’s space age bachelor pad, set in an aspirational, if sparse, storage unit in white, orange and plenty of plexi – with the odd Off-White sneaker thrown in. His features for the future speak to a generation of 14-17 year olds who use Wifi, Alexa and mobile computer devices as basic units and for whom ‘decorative might not be the only aesthetics’. For their parents, the setting brings back late 90’s nostalgia.
It is supposed to be an optimistic outlook. “Negativity is the engine of the world,” and it is increasingly creeping into the world of design as well, at which point “you feel like the ship really is sinking.” But Abloh is having none of it. “If I listened to a critique I would create less”, is his deadpan answer to online trolling.
The designer who lives on airplanes, uses the word ‘urgent’ often and runs his business from a smartphone and a WhatsApp group, thinks we are in the midst of ‘a new kind of renaissance’ where every day is ‘a new opportunity’, ‘no is not an option’ and everything is accessible with the click of a button. Hey, all you basically need is ‘a cellphone, password, credit cards and Uber’ to emulate the lifestyle of the millennial millionaire. Or Virgil Abloh.
Wait, isn’t the American dream broken? Whatever. The future is diverse.