beating time, designing beyond deadline –
learning from a legend, virgil abloh.
Whether or not you hated him for ruining or reinventing Louis Vuitton, you have to admit that he changed culture.
I often think that the Midas Touch can only be developed when you’re born or given that silver spoon in your mouth.
But once Virgil earned that silver spoon later in life, he fed others with it. He brought that golden touch down to doers and dreamers, great thinkers alike.
I remember the highly anticipated IKEA collaboration. I remember bugging my brother about heading to the store early, to be weary of the lines. I remember checking the Grailed resales and wishlisting every single big brown tote to use as a laundry hamper or one of those big bold beach totes you bring to brunch because you’re too lazy to fit all your essentials into a tiny bag. I wanted one of the chaise longues. The three-pointed mirror. Pure pine, simple yet playful enough. The very essence of his design language.
He was not one to create timelessness. Rather, he was obsessed with newness and how much further newness could be pushed. He was ferociously hungry for what was to become.
Perhaps that’s why so many hypebeasts flocked to his Off-White drops or to his secret DJ sets. Because he was the very symbol of ambition, everything that every mortal man wants to be, but never will be.
Virgil had a drive like no other designer. It seemed he rarely slept with all his endeavors and creative pursuits. I remember him talking about designs he worked on simply through a WeChat conversation, a chain of large block texts exchanged across different time zones in order to beat time itself, to design beyond deadline, to be.
I can’t help but tie such a loss of a titan to my recent mournings of Sondheim.
Every morning, I’ve been listening to Someone in a Tree, and there’s a brilliant moment where an old man is retelling oral history to a reciter about a secret meeting he witnesses from a tree as a ten year old boy. But the song surprises the listener because the ten year old self is conjured and pleads in his =high-pitched adolescent vibrancy, “Tell him what I see!”
This little self, tremendous in heart, begs to be heard, to be seen, to be noticed, to be known in oral history because he begs to be. Deep down, don’t we all?
In the obituary written on his posthumous Instagram, his team writes that he designed for his inner child. “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself.”
And what a noble act. To look back at a younger self that is not physically there, a ghost of sorts, and take care of him. Taking care of what is not there. Taking care of what is gone. What is ignored, unlit, to fill completely with aged and augmented light.
Louis Vuitton put out SS/22, the last show of Abloh’s effort and ethics, set on a Miami port, brisk night. We see Pharell-sized hats and Hulk-like gloves. Fitted suits cinched at the waist. Burning oranges, cool blues. Neon alien greens that look good on the blackest of nights. Virgil is alive here, and that makes it all more the perfect tribute to such a sudden passing as we see that big bright hot air balloon float in the distance. It is hope, there, in the sky. Hope looking down at us. Something for us to look up to.
The show opens with what sounds like a recorded message or part of a past interview, but it speaks volumes, here: