Virgil Abloh & Off-White Look to Impressionist Art
Virgil Abloh’s latest Off-White venture was directly inspired by 19th-century artwork in a fitting manner.
The Impressionist art movement marked a momentous break from traditional European painting in the 19th century. Parisian painters such as Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir began incorporating scientific research into the physics of colour to achieve a more exact representation of tone and hue, meanwhile thin, soft brushstrokes caught a particularly fleeting impression of light. The ordinary subject matter emphasized real human experience, as scenes were depicted as if someone caught just a glimpse in the corner of their eye. At its core, the art movement believed that the artist’s or viewer’s perception, or impression, was just as important as the subject matter itself.
The analogy is obvious but fitting. Virgil Abloh has long been known for his counterculture design ethos, more or less the foundation of his Off-White brand. He’s never been shy about incorporating trendy, of-the-moment designs, and in turn, he’s seen as a pioneer among those working to bridge the gap between high fashion and streetwear. Playing as important a role as his actual designs, his outlook as the visionary behind Off-White have earned him his ferociously loyal cult following.
Just as the Impressionists faced backlash against the traditional European art world at first, Abloh deals with constant criticism that he’s all hype, show, and not enough substance. Perhaps Abloh, who now resides in Paris part-time, was as inspired as the Impressionist greats Monet and Manet, who woke up to the same sight of the Seine every morning. From his time as the creative director for childhood friend Kanye West and Jay-Z’s iconic 2011 Watch the Throne album to the summit of his achievements in the fashion world as the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, Abloh is committed to redefining the traditional meaning of streetwear culture within high fashion. Of course, the Impressionist movement remains one of the most famous periods in art history, with canvases continuing to fetch tens of millions of dollars to this day.
The latest step in his evolution as a designer comes with Off-White’s Pre-Spring/Summer 2019 collection, which looks towards this very counterculture spirit found in the Impressionist movement. Dubbed “IMPRESSIONISM,” Abloh hopes to evoke the same tradition of going against the grain and embracing new, modern principles with open arms.
Abloh, who is no stranger to graphics, plays on this theme to recreate the artist’s or viewer’s general impression of a scene throughout the series of clothing. The resort collection has an array of all-over prints and styles that spring to life like a real canvas–literally. Both the Lake Holiday All-Over Shirt and Lake Oversize Harrington All-Over Jacket have prints that are taken directly from Édouard Manet’s 1874 painting of his friend Claude Monet on his boat.
The vibrant array of silhouettes reference the 19th-century impressionist-inspired graphics. One standout piece is the KISS graphic T-shirt (which also comes in a hoodie) depicting a zombie-like male kissing a woman. Another highlight is a textured denim jacket emblazoned with graphics that feature impressionist-style artwork. Rounding out the collection are graphic tees, long-sleeves and hoodies, the distinctive signature caution-tape belt and other items boasting painterly motifs throughout.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Check out the full Off-White Pre-Spring/Summer 2019 collection at HBX.