You’re in. Until you’re out

Robin Givhan

THE WASHINGTON POST – The designer Virgil Abloh stands at the edge of a precipice.

He is precariously perched atop a segment of the fashion industry where someone like him is a rare sight: a black man with a megaphone and everyone’s attention.

Abloh is the man behind the Off-White label. He also is the designer of Louis Vuitton’s menswear.

But Off-White is his baby; it’s the project that propelled him to this peak.

It’s how he made his name as a new kind of designer – one who is not tethered to clothing as his sole creative medium.

Off-White fall/winter 20-21 collection. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Abloh is a disc jockey, consultant and industrial designer. He is a promiscuous collaborator.

He has conjured up products with everyone from Ikea and Nike to Evian.

Fashion, for Abloh, is not a destination.

It is more of a means to an end, with that finale being a charismatic, divine expression of creativity – and a satisfyingly lucrative payday. The eyes of the fashion industry are upon him.

Until suddenly, they are not. Until suddenly, the people come but in the back of their mind, they’re wondering why they made such an effort.

This happens in fashion, with brands that ride in on a tide of zeitgeisty buzz: Zac Posen, Hood by Air, Kanye.

It happens a lot to designers of colour, but maybe that’s simply because there aren’t that many of them that ever breathe fashion’s rarefied air, and so when it happens to a couple of them it feels like it happens almost all the time.

Abloh is on that edge.

This ebb and flow isn’t a measure of commercial success – though it often is.

People buy what they want to buy regardless of what some gatekeepers in a glass tower say.

It’s more a reflection of the industry’s willingness to invest in a narrative about technical skill and originality – based more on a whim than evidence. It’s fashion putting truth to the Project Runway cliche about fortunes shifting in a day.

Fashion isn’t fickle; fashion simply puts an inordinate amount of stock in fables.