WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
When fashion students study 2010s/2020s style in 50 years’ time, Off-White is sure to be paramount to their research. The label has played a pivotal role in the blurring of lines between athleisure and luxury – an occurrence that’s changed the fashion landscape forever. Along the way, Off-White has been providing us with era-defining pieces that are still sought after to this day – industrial belts, deconstructed sneakers and super ironic accessories, just to name three.
To celebrate the momentum Virgil Abloh and his team have been able to create over the last few years, we're taking a moment to contemplate the designer's journey into fashion, the brand's latest collection and collaborations and the sizing and fit of its offerings. Essentially, you can think of this as our ode to Off-White.
Off-White History: Abloh’s Journey to Success
To fully appreciate the genius of Off-White, one must be well acquainted with founder Virgil Abloh – so, let’s go back to the beginning. In 1980, Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanian parents, and from a young age he learnt the craft of sewing from his seamstress mother. His childhood experiences melded with his innate passion for design informed his journey through the education system: he earned a degree in civil engineering from the Illinois Institute for Technology and a masters degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. During his time studying for the latter, Abloh espoused the principles of 20th Century design.
During the mid-00s, Abloh secured a job at Chicago screen-printing store Custom Kings, where designer Don C would occasionally visit. After meeting Abloh for the first time, Don commissioned him to create some work for his clients; and through Don C, the designer was introduced to Kanye West, who instantly hired him as his creative assistant. From then on, Virgil was considered a staple member of Ye’s squad. The two interned together at Fendi’s Rom-based headquarters. West later appointed Abloh as his creative director.
Two years later, Abloh – now lionized by members of the fashion and music industries – launched his first label and boutique, Pyrex Vision. The brand centered on the idea of taking the ordinary and turning it into luxury streetwear; controversially, the designer literally purchased deadstock garments from the likes of Ralph Lauren and Champion, printed his youth-inspired Pyrex branding upon them – along with the number 23, inspired by his hero Michael Jordan – and re-sold them for hundreds of pounds. Some branded the label a scam whilst others (including Chris Brown, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky) praised Abloh’s highly profitable yet disruptive strategy.
After a year of success, Abloh closed the conceptual venture down and focused on the launch of his new Milan-based label, Off-White. Its aim? To define the grey area between black and white.
Join us below as we take a moment to appreciate the brand’s latest collections and collaborations.
Off-White FW21: Ready-to-Wear Apparel
Titled Laboratory of Fun, the fall/winter 2021 Off-White collection is inspired by English architect Cedric Price’s Fun Palace concept, which pivoted around the idea of a university of the streets. Additionally, Abloh has stated that he took inspiration from German industrial designer Dieter Rams for this collection, who's renowned for his work with consumer products company Braun.
By eschewing loud graphics and focusing on streamlined silhouettes, Abloh hints at a new age for Off-White – one that fully embraces the designer’s architectural background. Accordingly, the fall/winter collection is characterised by its mid-century colour palette, sharp suiting and outerwear, tonal separates, dynamic dresses, blueprint-inspired knitwear and eccentric accessories.
Off-White FW21: Kids Collection
To the delight of precocious tastemakers and style-savvy parents, Off-White has finally branched out into childrenswear. The collection – releasing alongside the ready-to-wear FW21 line – combines Abloh’s refreshed, pared-back vision for Off-White with playful takes on the brand’s conspicuous house codes. The result is a line of colourful, semi-psychedelic looks that manifestly share similarities with Abloh’s current grown-size season.
Off-White: Eyewear Collection
As well as a childrenswear line, Off-White also debuted their first full eyewear collection this summer. Described by the brand as 'genderless, avant-garde and bold', each model embodies a different aspect of the luxury label. As expected, every pair is branded with the Off-White arrows logo and instantly recognisable Off-White typeface.
Already, Abloh has released an array of eyewear silhouettes. There's Cady, a pair that encapsulates Off-White's obsession with sleek structures offset by holes; The Cape, a sunglasses silhouette that tells a story of Abloh’s 90s teenagehood; and Alps, a pair of ski-inspired shades created with wraparound frames and oversized shield lenses.
Off-White Collaboration: Nike x Off-White Sneakers
Off-White x Nike is an ongoing collaboration between the two brands that began in 2017. Initially, the collab was dubbed The Ten and involved Abloh deconstructing then reconstructing 10 iconic Nike and Jordan brand silhouettes, including the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1 and Air Max 97. This project proved so popular that the Swoosh decided to strike a deal with the designer to continue reinterpreting Nike silhouettes for the foreseeable future.
As of late, the collaboration has focused on classic Air Jordan silhouettes (e.g. the Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 4 Sail), under-the-radar Nike track kicks (e.g. the Off-White x Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Black and Pink Glow) and Nike Dunks (e.g. the Off-White x Nike Rubber Dunk University Blue, University Gold and Green Strike). The next anticipated release sees Abloh design the Dunk Low in 50 different ways – each crep features coloured hiking laces and text-adorned standard laces, hands-logo printed security tag and a protruding sole badge marked with the number of the colourway.
Off-White Collaboration: OFFKAT
In July 2021, Off-White finally dropped their highly anticipated collaboration with New York City-based graffiti artist, KATSU. Known for his subversive statements (he famously tagged an NYC billboard featuring Kendall Jenner using a drone), KATSU represents the contemporary street artists who practise classic graffiti techniques.
The OFFKAT collection aims to translate KATSU’s portfolio into a line of ready-to-wear pieces by espousing the artist’s experimental imagination and experienced eye for design. Naturally, the collection features drone-painted designs, unexpected colour combinations and KATSU's signature skull motif.
Off-White Collaboration: Off-White™ c/o Theophilus London
Off-White celebrates Theophilus London’s self-released 2020 album Bebey with a capsule collection that fuses the aesthetic of the luxury label with that of the genre-defying American rapper. The line celebrates the friendship between the two creatives and their shared appreciation for music and design.
Each piece in the capsule collection features a customised label adorned with London’s signature and Bebey artwork in some shape or form. One pair of jeans is beautified with the word Bebey written in gold, inspired by the necklace on the album cover; a black T-shirt incorporates the illustration of the woman on the album cover into the classic circular Off-White logo.
Off-White: Sizing and Fit
Off-White: Tops and Shirts Sizing and Fit
Off-White tees and shirts are a staple of many contemporary dresser’s wardrobes – whether you’re a hypebeast, an inner-city socialite or part of another style shrewd subculture. The common consensus between all of these individuals is that Off-White tees and shirt silhouettes are of an oversized design; hence, you should stick to your regular size if you prefer an oversized fit or size down if you prefer a regular fit.
Off-White: Hoodies, Jackets and Coats Sizing and Fit
Off-White hoodies, jackets and coats are easy: they’re formal enough to wear on your work commute, casual enough to wear to meet up with friends, modish enough to score you brownie points on a first date and comfortable enough to wear on a long-haul flight.
Speaking of comfort, we’d recommend opting for your true size when purchasing an Off-White hoodie, jacket or coat if you’re hoping for a classic fit, or sizing up if you prefer a roomier fit.
Off-White: Bottoms Sizing and Fit
From cargo pants to joggers, jeans to jersey shorts, there are so many styles of Off-White bottoms to choose from. Naturally, the sizing and fit of Off-White bottoms differ depending on the waistband design and materials; however, we do have some general words of advice to offer you.
By and large, Off-White bottoms fit true to size. Having said that, if you often find yourself between sizes and you’re planning to purchase a pair of tight-fitting trousers – say, a pair of skinny jeans or a pair of elastane running tights – think about sizing up as Off-White bottoms are rarely generous.
Off-White: Dresses Sizing and Fit
An Off-White dress is always a good idea – like the brand’s range of layers, most of their dresses are suitable for various occasions. But how should you approach the sizing? Generally speaking, Off-White dresses fit true to size — but you may want to consider sizing up if the piece is tight-fitting or fashioned with a non-stretch material.