Best known as Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director and pioneering rebel against the mainstream in high fashion, Abloh’s garment collection on display is exemplary of his defiance of the traditional. In an industry traditionally governed by white men, his brand Off-White (launched in 2013) is representative of a post-racial reality as exhibited by the black and white stripes that is the company’s signature.
In 2012, he inaugurated the brand Pyrex Vision, ‘Pyrex’ being the glassware used in home drug labs. For these garments, he combined fine art visual references – from Caravaggio to represent the classical and Giorgio de Chirico to represent the surreal – printed on mass-produced sweatshirts and plaid shirts alongside screen-printed coded graphics that, like the title, honour disadvantaged youth.
For Abloh, music and visual art (including fashion) go hand in hand. His career was kick-started by his work for the then emerging Kanye West, for whom he worked as creative director for over a decade. The Music section of the exhibition includes a large-scale version of the album art for West’s Yeezus (2013), designed by Abloh, as well as a unique, transparent DJM and CDJ turntable. Transparency as representative of identity is a motif that Abloh has returned to as evident in his see-through suitcase designed in collaboration with Rimowa, which is also on display. This is evidence of his architectural schooling and inspiration from modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.