On October 17, 2017, Virgil Abloh dropped his first design as part of ‘The Ten’ collection.Taking the scalpel to a sanctified silhouette, Virgil and his Off-White label attempted to remix a sneaker that, for most of us, had always travelled the shortest distance between the heart and the sole: the Air Jordan 1.
Virgil’s Chicago-inspired Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 1 knocked it out of the ballpark, combining careful deconstruction and a playful reverence to become one of the most successful Air Jordan treatments of all time. Virgil quickly followed up with more heavy-hitters from Nike’s arsenal, releasing the Air Force 1 and Air Max 90, all to critical and commercial acclaim. The sneaker community was whipped into a frenzy.
Off-White were on fire.
But over the past two years, Off-White have released an utterly nauseating amount of zip-ties and silhouettes. In 2020 alone, Virgil has revealed two ‘Sail’ iterations of the Air Jordan 4 and Air Jordan 5, dropped-in on the Dunk resurgence with the Dunk Low and so-called Rubber Dunk, mined the Air Jordan 5 ‘Metallic’, and dropped yet another Air Max 90. With the hype machine fuelling the ‘sneaker leaker’ economy with bundles of zip-ties, how long before we choke?
Virgil Abloh once billed Off-White as a brand with the kind of philosophical stylings needed to disrupt the sneaker marketplace; a label looking to 'add an intellectual layer' to streetwear. For Virgil, streetwear had become ‘cheap’, a prescient remark that, ironically, became a kind of prophetic self-diagnoses for his own brand.
Repetition, imitation, appropriation; Off-White’s endless stream of releases in 2020 has created a rampant and insane production line of zip-ties and quotation marks. Any starry-eyed intellectualism regarding the role of fashion for Off-White was quickly zapped by the great corruptor of integrity: money.
If you’re prying open a discourse on art and fashion, it may not be necessary to constantly evolve, digress or implode; but if you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing. Leave it to other voices to attempt to render the contours of the world, rather than constantly installing quotation marks around it. We're desperate for new designers in 2020, but continue to hear the same maddening frequencies over and over again, a limited tonal range, picked up by consumers, and amped by major in-house sneaker designers cashing in on the trend.
For a man that travels over 350,000 miles a year, Virgil Abloh and Off-White continue to see the world only in black and white stripes.