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The Art of Collaboration: Virgil Abloh Through the Years

Sourcing Journal
Sourcing Journal
 2021-11-29
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A creative visionary, Virgil Abloh made a career out of bringing people together and challenging the status quo. His affinity for helping young designers , combined with his unique background in architecture and work with multi-hyphenate artists of all kinds, solidified him as a fixture in fashion and beyond. By joining forces with institutions like Levi’s and Nike, as well as with Swiss design company Vitra, Abloh made an imprint in home goods , art, sneakers and more.

Through his appointment as Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director in 2018, the Off-White founder can be credited for cementing the boom of luxury streetwear—two categories that had previously existed on opposite ends of the sartorial spectrum, and are now a force leading the industry forward.

News of his passing on Sunday conjured up loving messages from friends and fans across all industries, demonstrating his artistic and humanitarian influence around the world. Here, Rivet compiled some of Abloh’s top collaborations throughout the years, showcasing his legacy of forming unexpected parallels that transcended genres.

Levi’s Made & Crafted, 2016

Levi’s premium brand Levi’s Made & Crafted and Abloh’s streetwear label Off-White released an 11-piece capsule collection in 2016 featuring Levi’s iconic denim staples reimagined with quintessential Off-White detailing like color-blocking, exposed seams and oversize zippers. The collection was designed in partnership with Levi’s then-head of design, Jonathan Cheung, leading Abloh to state that the collection was “more of a co-design than a collaboration.”

Nike, 2017

In partnership with footwear titan Nike, Abloh designed The Ten over the span of 10 months, putting his spin on 10 classic Nike silhouettes: the Air Jordan I, Air Max 90, Air Presto, Nike Air VaporMax, Blazer Mid, Zoom Vaporfly, React Hyperdunk 2017, Air Force 1 Low, Air Max 97 and Converse Chuck Taylor. The collaboration was such a fixture in the footwear space that, earlier this year, the brand released a book highlighting Abloh’s creative process while designing the range.

Levi’s, 2017

Abloh was one of 50 icons Levi’s tapped to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 70505 Type III Trucker jacket, better known as the Trucker. While each designer offered their own take on the garment, Abloh’s was perhaps the most romantic, with a distinct black tulle overlay that cast a dark aesthetic over the classic denim piece.

Equinox, 2018

In 2018, Off-White partnered with luxury fitness company Equinox on a sweatsuit inspired by oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a hospital with locations throughout New York and New Jersey. Sales benefited Cycle for Survival, an organization that supports research for cancer, which Abloh privately battled for years.

Rimowa, 2018

Off-White and Rimowa celebrated the luxury luggage brand’s 120th anniversary in 2018 with a co-designed carry-on suitcase that Abloh said honors the relationship people have to their personal belongings. Aptly named “See Through,” the polycarbonate carry-on suitcase features a completely transparent design with black handles and wheels. The bag contains no interior lining and instead includes the Flex-Divider system to underscore the designer’s penchant for minimalism.

Takashi Murakami, 2018

In 2018, Abloh partnered with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami on global exhibitions featuring artwork that combined Japanese post-pop art and American street style. Showcased at the Gagosian galleries in London, Paris and Beverly Hills, the layered paintings and sculptures merged fine art with ironic and satirical elements.

Ikea, 2019

Abloh ventured into interior design with a 25-piece “MARKERAD” collaboration with Ikea that combined irony and art. The collection’s key pieces included a $499 rug emblazoned with the words “Keep off,” and a giant Ikea receipt that served as a playful statement piece. Tickets to the collection sold out within five minutes.

Mr Porter, 2019

Work attire got a streetwear update in Abloh’s collaboration with online men’s apparel label Mr Porter. Featuring 44 work-appropriate items, the “Modern Office” collection spanned wide-leg linen trousers, jersey T-shirts, a corduroy jacket and suede-trimmed sneakers.

Suay, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic brought together unexpected partnerships such as the one between Abloh and Los Angeles-based sustainable sewing and production shop Suay . In 2020, the masterminds co-designed and developed a hand-washable face mask, with all proceeds from the sale directed to support Covid-19-related research at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens. The masks—constructed for high filtration and breathability—featured neon contrast-hued binding, one of Abloh’s signature flourishes, on top of adjustable ear loops.

WeChat, 2020

The year 2020 included Off-White’s expansion into China—a move Abloh marked with an exclusive collection with Chinese social giant WeChat , featuring paint-splattered jeans and denim shorts, hoodies, flannel shirts and accessories like hats, belts, and phone and AirPod holders adorned with logos and signature motifs of both brands. The line was made available exclusively through the app, with prices ranging from $453-$1,399.

Vitra, 2020

Through an unlikely partnership with Swiss design firm Vitra , Abloh showed the world that presentation and experience are just as important as the products themselves. Together, the designers developed a limited-edition U.S.-exclusive collection of three minimally designed pieces of furniture inspired by Jean Prouvé, a French engineer and builder known for his work with prefabricated metal construction. Abloh dropped the line with a Miami pop-up installation featuring a live set from DJ music artist Pedro Cavaliere. The event was livestreamed on online marketplace Basic.Space, where consumers could shop the collection and watch it sell-out in real-time.

Nike, 2021

Continuing his longstanding relationship with Nike, Abloh most recently reimagined the brand’s most iconic basketball sneaker, the Air Force 1 , which first debuted in 1982. This June, the designer debuted a 21-shoe range of differently styled sneakers at Louis Vuitton’s men’s summer 2022 collection last week in Paris. Styles feature luxe leathers and other premium materials, as well as distinguished details like offset tags on tongues and small tags that modify the Nike Swoosh.

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