In conversation with Virgil Abloh to celebrate the new Off-White sneaker
The 'Out of Office' reflects a global shared experience.
Exclusively for i-D, to coincide with the launch of the 'Out of Office' Off-White sneaker, Virgil Abloh and i-D France Editorial Director Claire Thomson-Jonville met over zoom to discuss sportswear nostalgia, obvious classics and working from home.
Claire Thomson-Jonville: The concept of an “Out Of Office” shoe is an interesting one, what’s your point of departure each time you work on new sneaker?
Virgil Abloh: First it’s a pause on how important the sneaker has become. It’s exulted itself to this platform that means a number of things. It means something because of our childhood, it transcends most fashion articles because it recalls our first pair of shoes, an era, what your parents might have worn when they had those sneakers. It’s linked so much to emotion so it’s no wonder sneakers are a big deal today, it’s exciting.
CTJ: Just like the white tee-shirt and the perfect blue jeans, sneakers are classics. When you are working on a shoe and reflecting on the ingredients to create an iconic shoe, would you say that you are more visionary where you have an idea of what you want it to look like at the end or is it more of a step by step process?
VA: It’s a step by step process mainly based on emotion. The muse for this “Out Of Office” sneaker, instead of the sneaker driven hype person who’s maybe buying one, two, three pairs a week, it’s for someone who is literally on the fringe of the sneaker frenzy, who will just wear a casual shoe out of the office. That’s the starting point of the emotion.
CTJ: When you design a shoe do you have somebody specific in mind or is it a mood in general?
VA: It can be a varied approach, I do so many different ones. This one specifically wasn’t male focused, it was sort of like an idea of a person. That person doesn’t subscribe to gender, doesn’t subscribe to “I wear this and I should be like that” it’s more about creating one silhouette that I can see across many people, many types of people. That’s where we derived this “Out Of Office” , it’s like a pseudonym for just saying you might be at work or at play 24/7 and you dress according to how you describe yourself. Which means a sort of blank palette, that’s where all the different colours come in to play.
CTJ : How much does your mood when you design your collections influence your mood of sneakers, or do you treat them as two completely different things ?
VA : They usually play off each other when I go down collection mode it’s usually like one long journey around a theme but when I come up for air there are certain things that I keep true to my DNA. Like jeans and a tee-shirt, sneakers, hoodie, that’s what I wear every day so I always come with an idea of how to juxtapose. By the time I get around to show the collection the sneakers can take on a different form.
CTJ : The sneakers are called “Out Of Office”, with Covid and everything that has happened, so many people are working out of the office, how has your creative process changed this season? And in terms of what “out of the office” now could mean, what positives are you taking from this new normal?
VA : For me it’s been a large part of about staying inspired, staying reflective of this moment. We’re in a moment where 2020 is a year like we’ve never seen. Myself as a black person, we face the inequalities of the world, and that has to have an impact on how to support those that are doing the work. I started my Post Modern Scholarship Fund as an infrastructural way to make sure there is more diversity in design. Sneakers are an extension of black culture, how they rose to prominence, how they are worn, why they mean so much. For me as a person operating in this space it’s to sort of signify those things, open up doors for others to create. But also make inroads so the future is different than the past.