Photo: Off-White

There are a handful of designers determining fashion’s current aesthetic and Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White, is arguably one of them. Luxury with a sometimes-street-wear bent, Abloh is favoured by the Gigi Hadid set, but has also looked very cool on Celine Dion and Kanye West (to whom Abloh serves as a creative director). This multi-hyphenate (designer-DJ-Kanye-creative-guru) is showing his Spring 2017 collection in Paris, complete with his first line of handbags—hitting retail right off the runway. The campaign for the collection, above, explores “a provocative idea of luxury in the modern sense,” the designer explains, “You know you can buy a bag off Canal Street or from Celine just two blocks up from Canal. It questions, ‘What is luxury in the new era?’.” Below, Abloh discusses founding a brand concept beyond buzz, designing for his friends and entering the buy-now, wear-now fray.

HB: Your brand has been getting so much buzz, what has it been like to receive so much positive feedback?

It’s amazingly reassuring. This project sort of grew in a way that it was like a feeling that I had that there was a new girl that mainly is like my friends, and there’s a new guy that hasn’t been designed for yet. So for me there’s proof in the concept—just having conversations with friends and trying to sort of like whip together a brand that would work.

HB: And how would you describe that concept?

For me it’s a modernised luxury, a brand that doesn’t necessarily decide whether it wants to be refined or wants to be chic. It doesn’t decide if it wants to be young at all, from Celine Dion to Bella Hadid there’s clothes for everyone within Off-White. So by design I don’t put myself in a box because I don’t feel like the new consumer does. I feel like they make their decisions based on their feeling and they want a designer and a brand that is as equally non-committal. Like I move as fast as Instagram blows up, you know what I mean. And I feel like fashion could use the same kind of spirit and update from a designer brand and I wanted to provide that.

Photo: Off-White

HB: Why was now a good time to launch a handbag line?

I think it’s great timing because for me my focus is brand. I’ve always been focused on brand and these fashion things become a trend, like you said Off-White could seem like a buzz thing, when I hear that I feel like it’s for a moment in time, but what I’m trying to express with Off-White is it’s a longer concept. So I’m opening up retail stores, I think we all know the cornerstone of a fashion brand is accessories, shoes and handbags. So I wanted to spend the last 2 years thinking about a bag, a lot of the design and the details around it come from dwelling on why would anyone want to buy an Off –White handbag. So there’s a conceptual approach to it, you can see by the campaign we shot it’s highly thought about and then the design came from that. It’s like the DNA of the brand and the construction elements mixed with a refined chic. The supplier of the bag works with a number of fashion brands but I came to them with sort of an unorthodox approach of design. So there’s a pop-art play with it, there’s a binder clip on it, you can style it yourself, you can remove the strap, or get a different coloured strap, the hardware is made from construction bolts that are branded.

HB: Why did you want to launch the bags in a buy-now, wear-now model?

Just because of the way the fashion schedule operates. Sometimes seasonal things work, sometimes there’s a gap in the market and I feel like for me and my brand right now, rather than waiting 6 months to debut it on the runway and then launch it—when a product is ready I like to put it out.

HB: Can you give us any other hints about what to expect from Spring 2017?

The whole collection is called businesswomen and it’s inspired by the modern girl, which is really like my friends. They’re all spirited, they’re all independent, they all work for themselves in a large part of the way, and they are like a modernised version of their mothers. They make their own decisions, they style themselves, the clothes don’t wear them. They’re as varied as my collection, sometimes chic, sometimes sporty but all the while expressing their personality.

Photo: Off-White

The Binder clip Bag will be available in Singapore from 2 October 2016.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US