Few companies are as prolific on Instagram as Off-White, which operates 31 independent accounts for its products, stores, and inspirations. Today, that number becomes 32 with the launch of @off__white__seasons, an account dedicated to the “making of” the brand’s collections. It launches with women’s and men’s resort 2021, styled by Ibrahim Kamara and photographed by Andrea Artemisio. “Something about this feels more me in a way,” says Virgil Abloh over the phone from his home in Chicago. “If I were a 17-year old kid and I wanted to learn how to get into fashion, all I would want is a documentary or an Instagram account where I can see how the idea comes to life because then I could take that and interpret it how I would want to. So this account to me is going to be the home of future seasons, it will be the place where we can story tell and show our process, thereby letting people into the DNA of Off-White, not just the surface of Off-White.”
The account, which is already populated with lookbook images, behind-the-scenes photos, audio recordings of Abloh’s many phone calls, samples and test products, and WhatsApp messages, is in line with fashion’s recent move to be more transparent with its creative processes. Just as Jonathan Anderson made a show in a box and handed the mic to Loewe’s craftspeople for the brand’s spring 2021 menswear show and John Galliano invited Nick Knight to document every step in Maison Margiela’s artisanal couture collection, so is Abloh inviting us to peer even deeper into his world.
As the designer tells it, giving up a runway show format—for now, at least—is not just about showing the fashion community how the collection and its imagery is made, but providing a resource for a younger generation of aspiring designers. “I made Off-White to be modern, and to be investigative, and to try to find new ways,” he says. “You know, me and my demographic, we’re sort of self-taught. We’ve bent fashion to be what we want it to be. I feel like this type of presentation to me is more fulfilling than doing a runway show that only 800 people can see.”
As @off__white__seasons evolves, Abloh explains, it will continue to showcase his processes, as well as spotlight his collaborators. Stylist Ibrahim Kamara, who worked on the resort collections, is someone Abloh is especially proud to have brought into his team. “I really appreciate and champion his skillset. We’re working together on a number of projects,” Abloh says.
Of course with a new focus on transparency and education comes the opportunity for criticism. Social media is foremost a dialogue and having a conversation means listening to other voices. Abloh acknowledges this, but is determined not to become overwhelmed by any negativity that might come his way. “I look at it as: Amongst many other things that systemic racism and prejudice [has shown us] is a young generation saying to this older generation, ‘We want to be in the conversation of change. We want to learn early and we want to participate early,’” he says. “Rather than focusing on, sort of, inherent negative energy, I stay focusing on the 17-year-old that wants to take my job one day. They need an inside window. They might be more quiet online, but they are, in my mind, a productive member of the future design community. So what would I look like if I were fearful of someone that wants to spread negative energy and use me as a backboard?” he asks. “I know how this world is set up through experience. I’m trying to lead by example of opportunities given to young black kids to see what they can achieve in a world that’s not set up necessarily for them to succeed.”
Here he points to his scholarship fund set up for young Black creatives and describes how 2020 and its isolations has made him a more thoughtful designer and participant in the fashion world. “I think all of my ideas have gotten a further depth, more rigorous… I’m finding confidence in solitude and refinement,” Abloh says, even if he is still fielding about 430 text messages per day and constantly multitasking to keep up with Off-White and his role as artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton.
As fun and educational as Instagram can be, Abloh doesn’t want the idea of peeling back the curtain on how fashion operates to end with a couple of photos and videos, either. “Instagram is just another tool to hang out, an ecosystem to be a part of, [but] it’s not the real world. I think that is important to know, but it definitely affects how the real world operates for a time being,” Abloh says. “This [account] is a way for fashion to sort of transcribe itself on that channel, but I have many ideas for it to be IRL. Those will come out in due time.”