Dr. Samuel Ross
The first time I met Virgil Abloh in the summer of 2012. Our relationship began with a series of Instagram interactions and a quick follow-up email from Virgil asking for an overview of my design portfolio – all areas.
With just two years left after graduating from design school, I live in Leicester, Central England, work full time at an industrial and product design firm and engage in graffiti activities, time streetwear and video art in the late hours of each day.
In typical Virgil style, a quick decision made the day I submitted my work to him, I will never forget the decisiveness that followed. He asked me to work with him; I became his first design assistant.
So I canceled my studio apartment lease, quit my job, left Leicester and moved back to South London (I was born in Brixton) to help build Virgil’s vision. At this point, we still haven’t met in person – all of our work together is done online. We’ve worked across multiple time zones and enjoyed the freedom of being constrained by an office or fixed location.
Our working relationship started off much more formal than one might expect now, that of respect and seriousness towards immediate goals. In the years before that, Virgil was my first boss – he provided direction and leadership, emphasizing precision and open-mindedness on an equal footing.
Our work motivation is compared to a Rubik’s cube. There are a lot of moving parts and we have worked in many areas, specifically, fashion, motion pictures, graphic design and stage design – focusing mainly on the first fashion brand Virgil’s is Pyrex Vision and Kanye West’s creative agency Donda, of which Virgil is artistic director – all before Off-White was born.
Energized by the speed and scope of work we are doing, I often request additional projects and tasks to oversee or contribute to. Virgil would enforce these requests, often encouraging me to experiment and step outside of my comfort zone. This is around the time I developed the habit of commuting to every event, breakfast, or social event with my MacBook.
As Virgil became more successful and his motivation increased, it was my job to make sure that his ideas continued to take shape in the form of renderings, sketches, paintings, prototypes and supplies. Material grade – efficiently made and always with good taste, subtlety and nuance. The waypoints are not calculable, we simply know and speak the same visual language. Throughout these efforts, the spirit of competition is always present – no idea is fixed. The project is only completed when time stops. This is where I learned the skill of constant iteration – a big part of the way my own design studio thinks now.
Then, with the launch of Off-White: Radical and subversive, the franchise put the Black protagonist at the heart of it.
Built from the ground up with Andrea Grill and Davide de Giglio of New Guards Group (a Milan-based company that has backed several brands including Heron Preston and Opening Ceremony), good materials and proof prints Experience, evocative architecture and unsurpassed communication methods have come together to form the cult brand recently acquired by LVMH.
Strategic thinking, commercial prowess and innovative entrepreneurship came together in the launch of Off-White. For me, at the age of 22, this way of doing things was completely groundbreaking.
Soon after, I started writing and exploring ways I could apply this approach to a fashion brand of my own – I wanted to see if a British archetype could fit smartly. Illustrate with dialogue of subculture, architecture, political commentary and documentary discovery.
I ended up establishing my own label, A-Cold-Wall *, in 2015 in London, and as it began to grow globally and sustainably in streetwear and luxury fashion, Virgil continued to guide and support me. We are still in constant dialogue. Meeting face-to-face when schedules allow, we stay motivated to share our ideas until the end.
In 2018, Virgil’s made his debut as Louis Vuitton’s newly appointed menswear director. He was the first black American to hold such a position at a posh French home, and this watershed moment carved the possibility into a once crystalline industry.
For me, the moment marked an interesting realism distortion, optics and reflective surfaces were repositioned through design thinking to illuminate a path that could be seen by all. Seeing, and being able to join, his position at Louis Vuitton signals possibility and hope to many who may not be able to find themselves in such a role.
Virgil’s application of emotional intelligence and tactile communication has created a new complex, one that has not yet been conceived in luxury and traditional street fashion, but is now thriving, business. follows the traditional pattern of heritage as an aspirational moniker for radical repetition and elasticity.
As a result, the evolution of brand behaviors across multiple industries and sectors has moved forward. For example, today, values like diversity and inclusion are at the top of the fashion industry’s agenda, and consumers now know to demand more from the brands they choose to buy. show their loyalty.
Virgil is the driving force guiding many people around him. Earlier this year, his role as teacher was further formalized when he was appointed a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art London. Jony Ive, the school’s principal and legendary Apple alum, called Virgil “a true force of change,” adding that his “experience and mentorship certainly will inspire a new generation of innovators to realize their full potential. “Having experienced this power with my own eyes, I am sure he will.
Many have written about Virgil’s impact on the worlds of design, fashion and music – his legacy will be rich and layered, no doubt.
But he will also be remembered for his ability to help others visualize their success, visualize their ability to bring about change. He did this by being visible, relatable, and accessible – removing all barriers to entry into a world that isn’t always welcoming, and in doing so he creates the possibility for those who may have been excluded before.
All this was delivered, communicated and achieved with joy, optimism, grace and intelligence.
It is our duty to continue in such a way of existence.
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https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/05/op-ed-virgil-abloh-dissolved-barriers-of-entry-with-joy-and-optimism/ Op-ed: Virgil Abloh broke the ‘barrier to enter’ with joy and optimism