Virgil Abloh's notably calm demeanor is undoubtedly proving useful amid the wave of criticisms that have befallen the critically acclaimed designer. As both the men's Creative Director at Louis Vuitton and the head of his own label Off-White, the 38-year-old creative debuted two distinct fall collections this past Fashion Week, both of which received adverse reactions from some notable figures within the fashion industry.
Although producing a line that panders to all sartorial pundits is impractical, Abloh's judgement has been questioned, with accusations of plagiarism in the latest Off-White collection and Michael Jackson references during his LV runway.
During Men's Fashion Week in January, industry watchdog Diet Prada accused Virgil of unmistakably pulling references from up-and-coming streetwear designers and branding them as his own. This isn't the first time the account has spotlighted similarities between Abloh's pieces and those of other brands, which Doreen St. Félix of the New Yorker inquired about during her recent profile on the designer.
The writer noted that Abloh praised Diet Prada for the utility they provide to the industry. “All props to them, that’s a great concept,” Abloh said. However, in regards to the yellow jumpsuit Diet Prada accused him of plagiarizing, Abloh upheld the integrity of his designs. He explained that the resemblance that was pinpointed was "basically the use of a yellow fabric with a pattern on it." He sarcastically exclaimed, "Ring the alarm!"
Abloh attributed the accusations to the negative energy that plagues human nature, and the inevitable reality that negativity will conjoin human interests to a greater extent than positivity. "I could go on for a whole hour about the human condition and the magnet that is negativity," the designer acknowledged. "That’s why the world is actually like it is. That’s why good doesn’t prevail, because there’s more negative energy. You can create more connective tissue around the idea that this is plagiarized. It’s better just to sit and point your finger. That’s what social media can be. All that space to comment breeds a tendency to fester, versus actually making something."
In regards to the Michael Jackson references that decorated the Louis Vuitton runway, Abloh endorsed his decision to pay homage. MJ was already on the minds of many given the imminent release of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which goes in-depth on the allegations that he molested two young boys during the height of his career. The LV collection debuted just days before the doc was released, prompting many to question Abloh's logic.
When asked whether he had seen Leaving Neverland, Abloh brushed off the negative connotation and asserted that he wishes to remember the positive qualities exhibited by the late pop star. In an interview with the New York Times, Abloh said he listens to Jackson while he works, and the musical reference often leads him to produce a different garment. "When I have Michael Jackson singing in the background, it’s a different type of shirt, it’s a different kind of boot, it’s a different fit of pants."
Abloh admitted that he hadn't heard much about the documentary, and explained that he intends on remembering "the Michael that I thought was universally accepted, the good side, his humanitarian self."
Despite the critiques the designer has faced in recent months, Abloh's position as the figurehead of streetwear's elevation into mainstream luxury fashion, plus the simplistic yet innovative nature of his designs, has undoubtedly earned him the title of "menswear's biggest star."