Virgil Abloh has a thing for works in progress. On the phone from Paris this week he said, “Humans are often obsessed with erasing their impact or trying to make something look flawless, like a beautifully laid wood floor or a perfectly cylindrical piece of pottery. I’ve always been one for things that have evidence of the human.” Abloh’s interest in the unfinished comes across very clearly on his Instagram account, where he’ll post photos of product in development, scooping all the publications, new media and old, that track him, and making the jockeying for exclusives that gets done pretty much meaningless. He blasted behind-the-scenes clips from this lookbook shoot to his 3.2 million followers several days ago. They don’t call him a “disruptor” for nothing.
For his men’s Pre-Fall collection at Off-White, he’s applied his passion for the incomplete to clothes themselves. Hems and seams are left raw. Half-done Renaissance paintings decorate a coat and trousers. White Gore-Tex pieces scribbled over in neon look like spray-painted Tyvek; Abloh says the print was taken from a construction site near his building. And the Italian term incompiutois printed across the chest of logo tees and down the side of electric orange dry bags. The word is lifted from a project by the artist collective Alterazioni Video, which has made a 10-year study of unfinished public works in Italy. They did the set design for these images and will collaborate with Abloh on his Fall 2019 Off-White show in January.
The work in progress concept applies here in a different way, as well. Logos and brand signifiers notwithstanding, Abloh is continuing to inch away from the streetwear look with which he’s so closely linked. Since taking the creative director position at Louis Vuitton men’s, Abloh has described Off-White as a conversation with his 17-year-old self. “But it’s not youthful the way it was a year ago. It’s not just jeans and a T-shirt,” he says. “In the collection there’s a strong emphasis of style.” There’s a new breed of red carpet disruptors emerging, young men like Timothée Chalamet and Ezra Miller, who are embracing a fearless kind of masculine flamboyance. So Abloh’s turn to patchwork plaid suits, glossy checked trenches, and bold head-to-toe color comes right on time.