He calls Chicago home, but Virgil Abloh spends most of his time traveling the world as Kanye West’s art director—a job that calls for his input on everything from live shows to designing limited-edition sneakers. An architect by training, Abloh is on the frontlines of global fashion, art, and design, but his ties to Chicago stay strong: He’s an owner of RSVP Gallery, a lifestyle boutique on Damen Avenue, and a partner in @Superfun, a branding and events company, which regularly throws parties at JBar. “I make it back a week for every quarter of the year,” he says, “but I stay in tune because this is where I’m from.” On a recent trip home (fresh from Paris Fashion Week), Abloh, 30, weighed in on what’s catching his eye in men’s style this season.
“My first influences were a cocktail of growing up in the Jordan era, [watching] hip-hop videos after school, and window-shopping on Michigan Avenue.”
DIGGING GOLD: Abloh’s own accessories with a Prada Lurex pullover ($910 for a similar style), at Prada, 30 E. Oak St.; 312-951-1113, prada.com
BASEBALL FURIES “Any jacket that has a baseball-jacket shape, I’m going to look at. No matter what. It’s a classic shape that’s rarely done well,” Abloh says. These are his picks—from classic to goth—from the fall menswear collections by (left to right) Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, and Givenchy. Kanye West sported a Givenchy jacket during Paris Fashion Week this spring.
Video: Foundation; Photography: (Abloh, accessories, RSVP) Anna Knott; (runway) courtesy of vendors; (West) KCS Presse/Splash News/Newscom; Styling: Nicole Stege
Abloh tries on a scarf at the men’s boutique Apartment Number 9 (1804 N. Damen Ave.; 773-395-2999, apartmentnumber9.com). Below: Abloh opened nearby RSVP Gallery with partners Marc Moran and Don C two years ago. “RSVP Gallery was a natural step for someone like me who’s driven by design. It was a great way to combine my architecture background with the idea of curating a shopping experience.” RSVP Gallery, 1753 N. Damen Ave.; 773-770-6666, rsvpgallery.com
Kanye West × George Condo × M/M Paris silk scarf ($300), Common Projects slip-on canvas shoes ($395), A.P.C. New Standard jeans ($175; “an all-time classic,” says Abloh), and Tom Sachs’s Nutsy’s lighter ($12), at RSVP Gallery. “I’ve worked full-time alongside Kanye West in the creative category for seven years," Abloh says. "No one works harder for better art, design, and taste levels on a pop-culture scale than he does.”
Common Projects Vintage BBall shoes ($483), at commonprojects.com
Abloh was on the set as a creative consultant for “Runaway,” the 35-minute short-film-as-music-video (rife with references to visual culture, from performance art to Renaissance painting) made to coincide with the release of the single from West’s 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (Right) Pea coat with leather sleeves by Phillip Lim. The designer was tapped by West’s creative team to make costumes for his video “Runaway.”
“I never pack a suitcase without a Balmain hoodie. This look is a reminder that fashion is more about swag than anything else.”
Photography: (Abloh, accessories, RSVP) Anna Knott; (runway) courtesy of vendors; (“Runaway”) Def Jam Records; Styling: Nicole Stege
Inspired by Virgil Abloh: Classic silhouettes with beautiful, dark twists
Nixon Micro Blaster titanium earbuds ($100), at nixonnow.com. Incase for Andy Warhol iPhone snap case ($50), at Apple Store, 679 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-529-9500, apple.com. Givenchy felt backpack ($2,965), at luisaviaroma.com. Miansai by Michael Saiger bracelet ($95), at miansai.com. Watch the Throne limited edition CD by Kanye West and Jay-Z ($17), at watchthethrone.com.
ART FOLLOWS FASHION
Givenchy, the French fashion house that brings moodiness to clean-lined clothes, is one of Abloh’s favorite labels. He shares the preference with friend and collaborator Kanye West, who recruited Givenchy’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci, to design the cover of Watch the Throne, the new album by West and another sovereign of hip hop: Jay-Z.
Photography: (Watch The Throne) Def Jam Records; (all others) Courtesy of Vendors