After creating Pyrex Vision, a young, up-and-coming Virgil Abloh would aim to put form to “the gray area between black and white” by discontinuing that venture to create his premium streetwear brand Off-White, which he founded in 2013. The line has become one of the leading forces in high-end streetwear.
Abloh, who passed away on Nov. 28, 2021, following a two-year bout with cancer, also served as artistic director at Louis Vuitton menswear and creative director of Donda, Kanye West’s creative agency. He interned alongside West at Fendi in 2009. He launched Off-White’s first official collection at Paris Fashion Week in 2014.
Blurring the already muddied lines between streetwear and luxury fashion, Off-White plays with simple aesthetics. Thriving on minimalism, it distinguishes itself through design elements like its signature quotation marks, bright orange zip ties, and arrow motif, and is known for pieces like its caution-tape-inspired belts. With collaborations including the “The Ten” sneaker collection with Nike and a furniture line for Ikea, which features the coveted blue rug emblazoned with text that reads “Keep Off,” Off-White has continued to reinvent itself.
Each new collection creates another pillar for the brand to build on. Off-White x Nike sneakers have inspired fervor among sneakerheads and usually land a spot on Complex’s best sneakers list. The label has joined forces with Converse, Nike, and Jordan Brand to create a variety of models based on classic silhouettes. In 2019, Abloh moved into the fine art space, debuting a bevy of concepts and designs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in a solo art exhibition. Off-White has also collaborated with celebrities including Serena Williams on a pair of sneakers, Playboi Carti on merch, and Takashi Murakami on apparel.
Off-White has flourished because it resists definition. It diverges from the traditional paths of streetwear and luxury to create a lane all its own. If Abloh showed us anything through the brand, it’s that the future of premium streetwear fashion is in “QUOTES.”