Multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur Virgil Abloh is known for many things: a successful DJ career, a thriving design practice, and the artistic direction of major fashion house Louis Vuitton. Tapping into the contemporary zeitgeist of our overly-saturated image and information culture, the 38-year-old polymath often infuses his work with explicit and at times, nuanced socio-political commentary.
Whether developing a new shoewear line for his own label Off-White or spinning a mashup set at prestigious events like Robert Wilson’s Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit, Abloh transcends disciplines that, to this day, remain siloed. Breaking down the wall of high and low culture and doing away with this cliched divide altogether, the contemporary renaissance man transitions between the top echelons of the art world and that of mass consumer culture with ease.
And yet, this enigma of a figure has been accused of being a mimic—jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trends and repacking certain forms using the right marketable vocabulary. He has even been called a dilettante—a play on the current conditions of celebrities dabbling in different domains without really ever having to demonstrate any level of expertise or reflection. Mired cynicism aside, it’s hard to forget that Abloh did actually train as an architect and, unlike some of his contemporaries, is able to produce strong, relevant work, regardless of the smokescreen hype that surrounds him. Though he might not exercise a traditional mode of academic analysis, his overall output demonstrates a strong sense of cultural awareness and critique.