Virgil Abloh's fashion career has been plagued with rumours of theft and referencing without giving due credit but is his last showing at Paris Mens the last straw for the fashion industry?
Abloh launched Off-White in 2013 and quickly got noticed. In 2015, he was the only American to become a finalist for the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. He was credited with helping streetwear storm the luxury sector to take its place alongside it, without losing his cred of course.
Off-White is sold at stores like Barneys New York and French concept store Colette, not to mention the Off-White boutique/ hangout spots that Abloh has designed in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and other cities.
Speaking to Esquire magazine, Abloh said, "I'm constantly inspired by my friends and the people I surround myself with and the cities that I'm traveling to," he says. "All the movements are made up by my brain trust. None of us sip the Kool-Aid. We're all individuals; we're all critics; we all look at things from a discerning eye, and I synthesize those things. I'm sort of a conduit. I look at my friends, and I'm like, 'What could they get out of it?' And I sort of plug them in, and then I vicariously get what I need, which is inspiration, and, then, what they get out of it is a voice."
However, it seems Abloh has mistaken inspiration for imitation and has often been called out for the glaring similarities between elements of his collections and that of other, often up and coming designers.
What grinds the gears of the industry is that whilst Abloh with his respective Off-White and Louis Vuitton platforms is hailed as a genius, he is contributing to the erasure of the hard work of young black creatives.
Even his Off-White logo was said to be stolen from UK design group Kinnear, Calvert & Associates.
Instagram account, Diet Prada, whose tagline is 'call it out' are committed to exposing the hypocrisies of the fashion industry have made Abloh a regular feature on their page.
Diet Prada, whose wealth of style knowledge allows them to spot even the most subtle of similarities have featured Abloh regularly on their page.
Abloh's latest scandal however, seems to be a step too far as even his fashion friends are calling him out and the tide is turning against the designer.
Abloh's Off-White show was on the of the most anticipated of Paris Menswear Fashion Week. For the most part, Off-White has been credited with catapulting streetwear into a luxury context and marrying the two perfectly.
Off-White has led the trends over the past few years with instantly recognisable designs including their yellow construction belt which was on everybody's wish-list and in every celebrity wardrobe.
Their Paris show was supposed to set the tone for mens streetwear for the upcoming season but was soon plunged into controversy as eagle-eyed fans spotted similarities between designs between the brand and Cologne- based Colrs who showed their collection at Arise Fashion Week in Lagos, early last year.
He was also accused of lifting designs from Manchester based streetwear label, Gramm.
Diet Prada wrote:
Another men’s fashion week, another @off_white collection with cherry picked references from indie streetwear labels? This time, the designs in question are a yellow graffitied ensemble from Cologne-based @colrsbaby by @punkzec , who showed his AW18 collection at @arisefashionweek in Lagos in April 2018, and a graphic from Manchester label @gramm . It could be a coincidence, but Virgil has been known to swipe designs from the fans he meets, some of who happen to be young creatives themselves. Interestingly enough, @punkzec met Virgil prior to one of his presentations in Paris in 2017. Think they talked design?
Virgil's Louis Vuitton show was also not without scandal as fans drew uncanny similarities between LV and black owner brand Pyer Moss who have been making waves in the industry of late. These allegations coming from a fan of Kerby Jean-Raymond, the designer of Pyer Moss which won the winner of the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
A fan tweeted a side by side image of a Louis Vuitton look next to a similar look by Jean Raymond, which the designer retweeted. In a tweet he has since deleted, he wrote:
“I learned 6x ago that no one in the press is going to call him out about it. When you advertise in these mags, you’re a God. He has the bigger platform, I can get mad all I want in the end he has millions more following that believe he did it first.”
The ensemble by the Pyer Moss designer shown in the image is from his FW18 ready-to-wear collection. The look saw a woman wearing a large flag-inspired scarf in red, white and yellow with white pieces. Similarly, the Louis Vuitton look 41 which debuted earlier this morning comes with a flag-inspired scarf paired with a menswear suit.
The slouchy co-ord and oversized scarf combo certainly look familiar and though Virgil might be able to explain it away, his track record definitely counts against him.
Virgil's appointment as the head of Louis Vuitton menswear was a huge win for black creative culture and everyone had such high hopes for him. The whole black fashion community rallied around Abloh, wanting him to succeed in a notoriously prejudiced industry and for the most part he has.
However, if Abloh continues to steal and not give due credit to the very labels that he is supposed to be supporting and uplifting as a young black creative himself, there's no telling how long the support will last.
Virgil's credibility is already in question and as he continues to tow the thin line between inspiration and imitation, it may be completely destroyed beyond repair.