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December 2, 2020

The OFF-WHITE Streetwear Phenomenon

The future of streetwear’s survival is a hot topic in the fashion industry, with forecasts of its decline consistently proven wrong as the years go by.

Although people continue to speculate on the longevity of the style, a whole new hybrid of fashion has since come into existence that suggests its continuing future: luxury streetwear.

Streetwear on its own is not simply a style of dress; on a deeper level, it’s the expression of individuality, and while that can be said for pretty much any clothing style, the streetwear ideology finds its roots specifically in subcultures. From hip hop to skateboarding, sub- or even countercultures are major influences for streetwear, bringing the edginess characteristic of the style. But over the last decade, we’ve entered a new era of fashion – one that allows for high-end fashion to change the perception of streetwear, largely thanks to Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE.

According to The Guardian’s deputy fashion editor, Morwenna Ferrier, streetwear is no longer the antithesis of catwalk fashion. With the birth and global domination of Off-White, Abloh has successfully turned streetwear on its head. Unlike original streetwear brands like Stüssy and Supreme, Off-White was born as a street-meets-luxury blend from the get-go, without the assistance of collaborations with designer brands. Instead, Abloh’s decorated expertise and resume played a crucial role in Off-White’s success: being a multi-skilled and dexterous talent informs much of the brand’s aesthetic, with his skills and roles including fashion designer, creative director (for Kanye West and most recently Louis Vuitton), and DJ, just to name a few. He also completed an undergraduate degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in architecture.

When it comes to inspiration, Abloh is inspired by graffiti art, skateboarding, concert tees, and the music he listened to when he was growing up in the 90’s. Referencing these influences, the brand’s offering includes an expansive range of menswear, womenswear, accessories, shoes, bags, and jewellery, with each piece blurring the lines between high-end fashion and streetwear. To construct the luxury streetwear look, you have to think along the lines of combining comfort with style – for example, pairing a tailored blazer and pants suit with a casual long-sleeve button-up shirt and pink “Out Of Office” low-top sneakers.

Having obtained its cult-like following overseas across Europe and Asia, Off-White inevitably opened a brick-and-mortar store in Melbourne in October 2018. The store is located in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria (QV) building and is home to the brand’s extensive international range, as well as sporadic Melbourne-exclusive collections, designed by Abloh himself. To complete the store’s museum-like fit-out, Abloh worked with Brooklyn-based Australian artist Ian Strange on a sculptural installation, which serves as the store’s centrepiece. The installation is titled Nothing is Finished and was created by reconstructing sections of a demolished house. Despite its sheer size, the sculpture almost hides in plain sight, with its exterior painted in the brand’s iconic black and white logo.

It’s fair to say that the world never saw the Off-White phenomenon coming. Given that, we should all watch this space to see which direction Virgil Abloh’s poignant influence takes fashion in the years to come. As a swiftly evolving industry, fashion is full of visionaries like Abloh - so, who knows what trend will be transformed next?

If you liked this article, you may enjoy our feature on Prada's new ReNylon collection.

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