About Speaker Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh is a trendsetter. A visionary. A curator of pop culture. A creative genius and fashion and design rock star. He is a true renaissance man who’s among the leading voices in fashion, art, design and culture. His iconic Off-White brand and collaborations with companies like Nike and Ikea are just a few examples of his out of the box thinking when it comes to creative collaboration. Virgil recently made history when he became the first African-American to be named creative director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear line. That same year, Time Magazine named him one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Virgil was born and raised just outside of Chicago. His mother was a seamstress who showed him the ropes at an early age. Like many kids, he grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. Little did he know many years later he would have the opportunity to create his own versions of Jordan’s classic Nike shoes. During high school and college Virgil was the resident house party DJ for his friends and still does shows to this day. He got his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He then went to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to earn his Masters in Architecture. While at IIT, a building under construction designed by Rem Koolhaas sparked his interest in fashion. He began designing his own t-shirts and blogging on fashion and design.
Virgil met Kanye West at a local Chicago print shop while earning his Masters. Now mind you, this was before Kanye West was Kanye West. But Virgil and Kanye shared a similar vision of limitless creativity and eventually interned together at Fendi in 2009. That’s when Virgil’s disruptive and metaphoric approach to fashion was first noticed by Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke. Virgil’s relationship with Kanye also blossomed into new creative spaces. Virgil was tapped to lead Kanye’s creative agency DONDA and spearheaded interior designs for his friend’s clothing stores. In 2011, he was the art director behind Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne album which earned Virgil a Grammy nomination.
In 2012, Virgil launched an artistic experiment he called Pyrex Vision. He bought deadstock Champion and Ralph Lauren clothing and screen-printed special designs on them. His vision was to celebrate youth culture by creating unique pieces from clothing items kids already had in their wardrobe. The experiment was a huge success. He created his own buzz in streetwear culture that led to the founding of Off-White in 2013.
The Off-White brand is truly a metaphor for what drives Virgil. To define the grey area between black and white. Not to re-create the color wheel, but to connect thoughts, images, ideas and ultimately people together through art, fashion and emotion. Off-White makes a variety of items from mens and womens clothing and accessories to shoes, furniture and other household items. Virgil has since had a hand in designing and curating art exhibits as well as fashion shows and other special creative events. In February of 2020, Virgil was chosen as the keynote speaker for the 2020 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference on Architecture.
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