The opening look and most of the closing, women’s included, at this Off-White show were made in collaboration with the New York artist Futura—aka Lenny McGurr. His vivid spray strokes and sleekly alien Pointman figure were incorporated as print or jacquard into suiting, soft trenches, cycling vests, denim, a blanket, and evening dresses. As Virgil Abloh sketched it in his long sentences backstage: “In his lifetime, and in the culture that we come from, which is a segment of hip-hop and graffiti, [his work] started out being seen as a form of vandalism, not art. . . . But as well as painting on the side of subway trains, he was part of the scene and showed with Basquiat and Keith Haring. . . . . He was on what was once thought of as the fringe. . . . but now, through time, we can see that the beauty of Basquiat is also the beauty of Lenny, Futura.”
That transition from the counterculture—the fringe—to become both the subject of establishment acclaim and an agent of change within the establishment mirrors Abloh’s own path: In the 10 years since he was photographed by Tommy Ton with Kanye West and crew outside Comme des Garçons, Abloh has completed the full loop. But reflecting on the longer span of Futura’s journey—combined with his own recent project curating his past body of work for the “Figures of Speech” exhibition in Chicago—has made Abloh consider a bigger picture. “When I make things, I look at it on a scale of 30 years. What gives the esteem and the energy . . . I know the work has to mean something now, but I’m also thinking about what it means when you zoom out.”
There was certainly a sense of space in time in some of this collection. Its span of reference was broad but as legibly interconnected as the branding on the new Nike Dunk, codesigned with Futura, that made its debut on Abloh’s carnation-field runway. The chain-link fence pattern on bags, jackets, and a semitransparent poncho played nicely against the densely hand-knit sweaters that bore patches declaring membership in the “Off-White climbing club.”
Climbing was not only this collection’s second big theme—reflected in the drawstrings worked into suiting, the technical luggage, and the nylon patched knit faux fleeces—but it was also part of the broader metaphor at play. A sky blue suede trench with detachable front pockets, a double-layered floral-print down jacket and shorts, a chain-link knit off-white shirt and shorts, plus the recut denim template workwear in washed and treated technical fabrics were all highly polished and finished pieces. Conversely, the tie-dyed cargo pants (sometimes crystal set) and denim, the bandana-patched T-shirts, those dense knit sweaters, and bleached flannel shirting were all designed to appear roughened and weathered.
In a piece of tape played before the show, Bjork spoke about the “spaced-outness” of perspective, nurtured through the landscape of Iceland, that helped her learn songwriting. Abloh seems to be in search of a similar panoramic point of view—an apex position—and the topography of the clothes he is producing as he makes that ascent is benefiting from it.