Virgil Abloh: ‘Kanye is our generation’s Yves Saint Laurent’

You’re always flying somewhere. Where are you right now?

[Laughs.] You are right, I’m about to get on a plane to Milan.

What’s the origin of your brand name, Off-White?

I’ve always been one to make a decision based on thinking with two frames of mind; I can often contradict myself. Instead of working against that, I embrace it. Off-White is basically between black and white; which is like not gray, but is my hue of what’s in between.

You were a longtime creative director for Kanye West — was that a launching point for you?

I still work with him. It’s sort of a misconception that I don’t. He is our generation’s Yves Saint Laurent, combined with Warhol and Basquiat. Since 2003, we’ve been close creatively and as friends. That to me is invaluable experience. I figure we’ll both live until we are 100, so there is a lot more work to do.

You opened your first store in NYC this summer — Em_pty Gallery.

It’s a gallery and retail space at the same time. I thought it was more relevant to have a store not be “Off-White” and come up with another concept where it’s an experience. I have the ability to showcase new artists and their new work. That curation of the space dictates how the fashion comes back in afterward.

Virgil Abloh

The concept really taps into your knack for iconic collaborations. You’ve done so many: Levi’s, Warby Parker, Champion, Nike …

One of the biggest misconceptions in making fashion or art is that when you see a name or brand name, people assume that is the only person doing that. Life is a collaboration.

Who’s next on your collaboration wish list?

I’m an architect as well. I’m more interested in hotels. Or with a city, to do parks. Outside the realm of clothing for sure.

Who are your muses?

Definitely Phoebe Philo. Martha Stewart, she painted a lifestyle. You wouldn’t guess that Sarah Jessica Parker is a No. 1 muse. For me, “Sex and the City” was bigger than a show. And obviously Princess Diana. I chose her [as muse] for my spring collection because I’m the same age [36] she was when she passed away. Before there were street-style images, before there were tons of photographers outside of fashion shows, she was just dressing up for her lifestyle. That’s the mark of great style.

Beyonce carrying an Off White bagVirgil Abloh’s Tumblr

Off-White arose on the scene just as the fashion industry was beginning to embrace streetwear. Do you think you helped legitimize the fusing of runway and…

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