Business Casual at Off-White Fall / Winter 2018 Menswear

PARIS, France - Virgil Abloh is hitting his stride as creative director and polymathic magnate for luxury brand Off-White. The former architect has taken his theoretical underpinnings to fashion and other sectors, including collaborations with Ikea and Nike, auditorium-packed talks at Harvard and his alma-mater Illinois Institute of Technology, and DJ stints in Las Vegas and beyond. As the consummate designer, Abloh offers a contemporary example of living creatively with no limits.

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His Fall / Winter 2018 Menswear collection shown in Paris was unabashedly Abloh's take on business casual. A loosened tie, a blazer, a pastel polo shirt - each signifies wardrobe staples a banking analyst might wear on the trading floor of an elite financial institution. It is an interesting subject matter for a designer who began in traditional streetwear, selling motif-driven separates for a very different clientele. However, that theory of streetwear under Abloh's gaze clearly translates in a luxury context: it is about imbuing the clothing with meaning beyond function, presenting an alternative view on how one can dress, and supplanting the status quo with something new. Grey pinstripe suiting cut to fall freely is refreshing, wool trousers are updated with a zipper toggle found on outerwear, and monotone separates are reimagined with athletic detailing.

Abloh is keen on this gap between what is understood as luxury and what is understood as streetwear; part of that inquiry produces tongue-in-cheek logo-mania where items are literally identified in graphic text - a scarf emblazoned with "SCARF" or a tote bag printed with "GOODS." Nothing is taken too seriously. Tailored jackets are neatly color-blocked with spray paint while a pair of dark pants look as though they have been dragged on the floor of an artist's studio. A chuckle is evoked by a teddy bear cropped bolero I'm sure I've never seen anywhere else before. Knitwear layered under a long wool vest is elegant yet not stuffy. Bleach tinged sweatshirts reflect perhaps a metaphor for this departure from perfection. It is the invocation of handiwork or craftsmanship in a realm (in this case, streetwear) better known for mass-producing items by the hundreds. With Off-White, each seemingly simple piece has undergone its own process - whether off-center, asymmetrical, or patterned.

As has become increasingly common, women graced the runway in their own versions of business casual - high-waisted denim and leather jackets - calling into question who is in fact in charge.

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