Over the past few years, Virgil Abloh has been a tour de force in creating industry-shifting collaborations. From German car manufacturers to Swedish furniture brands, the late Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton menswear designer has touched upon many aspects of the culture and left a legacy like no other. While Abloh tragically passed on November 29th due to a rare form of cancer that he had been privately battling for two years, we want to take a minute to look back at ten collabs that changed the world forever.
It's hard to remember what life was like before Virgil's signature zip-tags and quotation marks. To think that someone who didn't even train to be a designer would become one of the first Black men to lead a major fashion house is an inspiration to us all. Whether you were a fan of his or not, there's no denying that he has left a dent in the universe and will be missed by many for generations to come.
While this article is in no particular order, I want to kick if off by mentioning Virgil's IKEA collaboration from 2017. Done through the lens of the Off-White brand, while many people thought it was a one-off project to begin with when it was first teased on Instagram, we were all shocked to learn that it was actually going to launch at select stores.
Almost immediately, hypebeasts around the world flocked to the Swedish flatpack giant. This was the start of the term "hyped homeware", and since then, many other fashion designers and streetwear brands have tried their hand at releasing fully fledged furniture collections, none of which have been as popular as Abloh's take. From clocks to rugs, the Chicago native really thought of it all, injecting his delightfully deconstructed aesthetic into each and every piece.
One of Virgil's newer collabs, in 2020 he announced that was teaming up with legendary German automaker Mercedes-Benz for Project Geländewagen. Essentially a fully reworked G-Class SUV but with primary colours and an even more premium interior, only three of these were made and they were all auctioned off to various places.
Following Abloh's death, Merc revealed that he was also working on Project Maybach where he reinterpreted the luxury vehicle for the great outdoors. Temporarily displayed at Miami's Rubell Museum, exclusive access was given to students from local design schools, which is an ethos that Abloh had always pushed.
When Virgil replaced Kim Jones as Louis Vuitton's Menswear Designer back in 2018, the world was left in awe. While we'll go more into this later on, it's worth mentioning that his first ever collaboration for LV was with iconic Japanese designer Nigo. The man behind brands such as A Bathing Ape, Billionaire Boys Club, and Human Made, he was recently appointed as the Artistic Director over at Kenzo.
The capsule, entitled, "LV²", touched on both Abloh and Nigo's aesthetics. A perfect hybrid of monogram and checkerboard motifs, this was all printed on top of Japanese denim and quality fabrics.
The summer of 2017 saw the release of the very first Off-White x Heron Preston collaboration. The highlight of the collection was a transparent PVC handbag that was contrasted by bold orange accents and printed with "COLLABORATION" smack bang in the middle of the piece itself.
If you didn't already know, Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh, among others, were both co-founders of the streetwear brand Been Trill which gained a cult following during the early Noughties.
We can't make a list of the best Virgil Abloh collaborations ever without mentioning his stint with Champion. In 2017, the pair teamed up for a range of clothing that were all adorned with the signature Off-White touches. From technical verbiage to chunky zippers and thick diagonal stripes, each piece was infused with Virgil's signature styling.
The result was a sixteen-piece strong collection that is still incredibly sought after even after four or five years. From T-shirts to hoodies, everything has held its value, if not more so, which is an incredible feat that not many can achieve.
In 2018, Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh linked up for a series of artworks that were showcased along the walls of London's Gagosian Gallery. Borrowing elements from each artist, the result was a truly breathtaking showcase that blurred the line between fine art and streetwear.
To coincide with this event, the pair also created a range of special edition apparel. According to Murakami and Abloh, this project played a huge role in shifting their careers. This is something that they went into more detail during their interview for Cultured Magazine's Fall 2018 issue where they are featured on the cover.
This was a collab that was sure to quench the thirst of every hypebeast. In 2019, the mineral water brand invited Virgil to redesign their iconic Soma water bottle. Given the title of Creative Advisor, the result was a 100% eco-friendly reusable bottle that was done up with the Off-White designer's signature touches.
While many thought this was a one-off project, later that year the power duo reunited for the "MAKE A RAINBOW" 75cl Water Bottle, and then again in 2020 for a whole range of new bottles and the "Activate Movement" Collection which featured a shoulder bag and a storage box.
While this isn't strictly a collaboration, it's a partnership that's definitely worth mentioning. Virgil's history with Kanye West stretches back over a decade ago. The pair met at a Chicago print shop and they both interned in the same class at Fendi in 2009. The following year, Abloh became Creative Director at West’s creative agency, Donda.
This partnership then led to the launch of Off-White, and in an interview with Vogue, he mentioned that both he and West's first sparks of design inspiration came from visiting the Louis Vuitton store on Michigan Avenue. Who would've thought that years later Abloh would be heading LV's menswear division?
Back in March 2018, the fashion world froze over as Virgil Abloh was appointed as Louis Vuitton's Menswear Designer, replacing Kim Jones. While this isn't a collaboration, it's a moment in his career that is definitely worth mentioning. He was the label's first African-American artistic director and one of few black designers to helm a major European fashion house. Debuting his collection during the 2018 Paris Men's Fashion Week which was staged in the historical Palais-Royal gardens' courtyard, this was a huge moment in history for people of colour.
During his time at LV he had teamed up with a multitude of big names including NBA and Nigo. While he only had a short three years with the Parisian imprint, his work will be remembered for centuries to come.
And last but not least, we must talk about Virgil's collaboration with Nike. It all began in 2017 when the Swoosh tapped him for the Off-White x Nike "THE TEN" Collection. He was given the opportunity to remaster ten classic silhouettes including the Air Jordan 1, the Air Force 1, and Air Max 90, and the Air VaporMax. Following two different themes including "REVEALING" and "GHOSTING", the ten sneakers continue to resell for £1,000s even four or five years later.
Abloh didn't just stop there though. Over the next few years he could take on even more Beaverton models including the Air Jordan 4, the Air Jordan 5, and the Dunk Low, in which he released a total of fifty colourways. His last project with Nike before he passed away was on the Air Jordan 2, which features midsoles that were inspired by scans of Michael Jordan's actual game worn pair. These are the types of details that kept Virgil Abloh at the top of the game.
Even though he is no longer with us, his creative genius and true innovation across the genres of art, fashion, and music will always play a role in our daily lives. Over the past few years, Virgil Abloh has blessed the culture with a multitude of collaborations that will definitely go down in the history books. He often said, "Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself," believing deeply in the power of using art to inspire future generations.