Virgil Abloh needs no introduction. The multi-disciplinarian and one time Kanye intern boasts a portfolio that spans design, music and other entrepreneurial pursuits. Abloh has often talked about the 7 design principles that he uses to guide his work and thought processes. Those who know him best point out that the designer is on a never ending quest to understand himself through the cultural context in which he is surrounded by. (Swipe to see the full list of principles)
Most interesting to us though is his involvement in football. Abloh built his design credentials as the founder of Off White and first translated his love for the game into a 2018 collection in partnership with Nike. We dip into the archives to analyse the collaboration, explore which of his 7 design principles were applied to collection and evaluate his involvement in the football fashion landscape.
Abloh’s first principle dictates that any new ideas must feature recognisable parts. His aim is to take previously overlooked features we are familiar with and turn them into art. This is immediately evident in the Mon Amour collection. The shirts take strong design cues from the long sleeve shirts of the 90s, featuring a similar cut and style. The ‘club crest’ is heavily borrowed from that of the Dutch national team as is the orange accenting.
Abloh has spoken on his love for logos and typography, being a fan of the iconic 90s sponsors such as JVC and Carlsberg. In his own words: “The great thing about the vocabulary and history of football is that aesthetically it has its own look. I was always inspired by the way European teams have a sponsor printed over the chest. When I was working on this collection, I wanted to celebrate the different variants of typography”. With this in mind, Abloh applied his 3rd principle that aims to change an object by no more than 3%., printing the Off White logo in cursive as opposed to the standard font.
Football is undergoing a cultural shift. One that is seeing the focus move from pitch to street. When conceptualising the collection, Abloh took into account his 4th principle that aims to find compromise between two dissimilar notions. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Palace and Supreme, the Mon Amour collection sees the coming together of two separate worlds, football and streetwear.
Finally, in applying the 7th principle Abloh has created something that speaks to both the purist and tourist. We know that the football landscape is changing rapidly and in recent years has made a shift to a fan experience that is transactional. Clubs are aware of the value gained from creating special limited edition shirts with fashion brands, and do so in an attempt to attract a new market. The Mon Amour collection speaks to the new football fan as well as the ‘purist’. The shirt has the hallmarks of football heritage with references to Abloh’s childhood spent watching 90s football, yet it features enough in the design to be considered a streetwear piece. Abloh has previously done this with military uniform.
As a designer who has been lauded for his work, any involvement in football was going to be well received. His Mon Amour collection came at a time when the Off White brand was at its peak and the pieces represent a compromise between tradition and innovation. Working with Nike on the collection allowed Abloh to position himself for future opportunities in football, opportunities that may lead to him designing kits for the likes of Inter Milan or Liverpool.
This leaves us with a few questions.
Where does Virgil Abloh stand within on the football landscape? Does he have clout amongst fans? Is he appropriating nuances in football sub culture for personal gain? Whatever the answers are it’s going to be interesting to see his next move.