Virgil Abloh is fashion’s hottest designer. We meet the man whose orange brick has people queuing round the block
On an early summer’s evening on the outskirts of Basel – a city almost certainly in Switzerland, but sometimes in France and occasionally Germany – hundreds of well-heeled men and women stand in line, giddily, champagne flutes in hand, waiting to buy a £140 brick. It is, naturally, no ordinary brick. It’s flag-down-a-passing-aircraft orange, and prominently branded in an edition of just 999. But, crucially, the brick – or “ceramic block” as its parents have christened it – has been designed by Virgil Abloh, a 38-year-old from Chicago, in conjunction with the timeless Swiss furniture company Vitra. Right now, Abloh is an alchemist: anything he touches in the worlds of fashion and design turns to gold (or often orange). The people jostling in this queue know that they could buy a brick and own a cherished piece of design history – or walk out and resell it immediately for at least double what they paid.
And yet, it really does look like a brick. Abloh, whose day job is artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, makes no wild claims for its utility. “It is sort of reminiscent of a cinder block, which is obviously a building unit to build structures such as we’re in,” he says, at the launch at Vitra’s headquarters. “But we decided to make that a ceramic household accessory. It gets adapted to your living space as an object itself, or it can be a paperweight, or it can hold objects within it.”
Design is often something the general public doesn’t notice until it’s broken
When I was showing in fashion week, people were saying, ‘That’s not fashion’
Waders, waterproofs, waistcoats and beanies are this season’s must haves – perfect for the wet start to summer
Fashion takes its inspiration from diverse places – yet this summer some of the biggest trends are being influenced by a particularly unlikely source: fishing – or rather angling, to be specific.
It’s not the first time that fisherman fashion has been co-opted by those who don’t necessarily spend their leisure time with rods, reels and sinkers. But forget the Aran jumpers, thick-knit scarfs and rolled-up beanies that hit the catwalk – and subsequently the high street – circa 2016. This time around it is the utilitarian, functional fashion favoured by those fishing rivers and lakes that have become an unlikely style muse.
Perfect for boybands and catwalks – but what about the real world?
Every year on the red carpets of say, the Oscars, or the Grammys, there’s always one male star wearing a white suit. One year it was Jared Leto, another, a pre-harness Timothée Chalamet. In a sea of perfectly tailored black tuxes, this actor stands out, almost too much. He is basically saying: “Hey, listen up. I’m not like those other guys for whom this is a visual Bond audition. I’m special! I’m caring, sharing and can play quirky (depending on the fee). Please cast me in your next John Green adaptation.”
Wearing white always feels like an audacious move: bold, carefree and maybe a little brash. Because who really wants to be That Guy? It doesn’t have to be a white suit at the Oscars: what to make of the dude who turns up at the house party in all white? Or the friend of a friend in white quarter-length shorts and matching polo shirt? It either says try-hard, estate agent or Wham! tribute act.
Not everyone can pull off an upcycled velvet curtain, but it is a shame more dudes don’t try. As Porter told Stephen Colbert during an appearance on The Late Show, men’s clothing norms are mired in misogyny. “Women wearing pants is powerful,” the 49-year-old said. “It’s strong, everybody accepts it and it’s associated with the patriarchy.” However, “the minute a man puts on a dress, it’s disgusting, so what are you saying? Men are strong, women are disgusting? I’m not doing that any more … If I feel like wearing a dress, I’m gonna wear one!”