There’s busy, and then there’s Virgil Abloh. In our last interview with the Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh designer, he told us, “I work nonstop. It’s a lifestyle,” and our latest chat with him proved no different. On the phone from his hometown of Chicago, he tells us matter-of-factly how is week is shaking out. “I was in New York yesterday for a talk with Tom Sachs and will be back there tomorrow. I was in Vegas DJing the night before that. Before that I was in London and Milan.”
During some window of time between catching a flight, presenting a collection in Paris, and business meetings internationally, Abloh managed to create a men’s and women’s capsule exclusive to Barneys called “Frame of Mind.” The collection of elevated basics like tees and hoodies may be in an understated a palette of black, white, and grey, but spray-paint-effect graphics lines add an artistic spin.
Below, we probed Abloh’s highly creative mind to learn more about the artistic influence behind the highly anticpated capsule, the virtues of a busy schedule, and how music keeps him current.
The Window: Tell us about “Frame of Mind.” How did you approach the capsule?
Virgil Abloh: I’m still new to design and I have an abundance of ideas, so essentially, a capsule is just another collection. So I approached it as a normal collection, just smaller. I love capsule collections for allowing me the chance to experiment and do things on a smaller scale. It’s essentially one idea, distilled down to a bunch of looks. There’s often an art reference with Off-White, and one of my main inspirations this season was artist Martin Barrett, who uses spray paint in his artwork in a really contemporary way. This collection is using a similar approach to the spray effect on the garment. I called it “Frame of Mind” because it’s about the mental state where you can just express yourself and spray paint on your own clothes.
Samuel Ross from A Cold Wall told us he learned efficiency and multi-tasking from working with you. What do you think makes you good at those things?
I’m just generally a person who likes being busy and prefer it to being bored. I have the opportunity to do a lot of creative projects, and if I can do them all at once, it doesn’t bother me. One thing inspires another, so I’m more in my natural state when I’m occupied.
Do you think that having your hands in so many projects—DJing, clothing design, creative consulting—and refusing to restrict yourself helps or hinders you within each field?
There’s been a shift in culture with new ideals in the last few years. Before, it was very much that you could only be good at one thing or do one thing, otherwise people can’t fully understand. For me, there’s only one shot at living, so if my interests range across a bunch of different things, I won’t hold back. I think the younger generation truly doesn’t care. I’m taking advantage of my interests.
When you were growing up, what did you think you’d be?
I didn’t really think that much about it. I was shortsighted—it was more like, what am I going to do after college? I think I’m still like that today—shortsighted creatively and workwise. I just want to do things I’m excited about.
You’re at the core of a new fashion genre—some might say “streetwear”—how did you get where you are?
I learned by participating in the culture, so I’m a product of a lot of people and vibes of the time. From the New York scene with people like Eddie Cruz and Chris Gibbs, to participating in what was happening in Japan with Nigo and Hiroshi Fujiwara, I’m really just a product of all these things. I came at it from a younger generation that wanted to do justice to all the strides they made in the genre of streetwear before me. My concept for Off-White is really built upon those things but trying to add something to the genre to inspire the kids underneath me to do the same and carry the torch forward.
Do you consider streetwear your genre?
It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s about being contemporary with an eye toward credible. Every era in fashion has a different name for it; it’s up to the writers and people to figure out how to categorize it. I think streetwear is still undefined—it’s up to us to do good work in it and see if it lasts and evolves.
You’re always on the pulse of culture, if not a step ahead. How do you stay current?
I travel so much to different cities and am among friends. In my off time I’m in it, so to speak. It’s important to take time to participate in culture—going to dinner, going to shows, DJing, supporting other artists.
Do you consider DJing part of your career?
It’s a pastime for me—an escape that I have fun doing, and I’ve been doing it since high school. It also allows me to keep up to speed on what’s happening with music, in clubs, and to travel. I often joke that DJing is like playing golf for young people. All my friends are DJs—it’s our common bond. We all play different music; it’s just something you do outside of work that gives you a chance to think about the creative work that we do.