Off-White walked Paris Fashion Week with a tribute to Virgil Abloh

The label that made Abloh a star staged a star-studded and interactive runway experience—including TikTok—to honor its late founder.

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“This really feels like a celebration,” Tracee Ellis Ross told Women’s Wear Daily as the Off-White Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection launched as one of Paris Fashion Week’s opening acts on Monday evening. In tribute to its late creative director Virgil Abloh, the label staged a multimedia and interactive runway presentation which debuted as both a citywide and TikTok livestream titled “Spaceship Earth: An ‘Imaginary Experience.'”

(l-r) Naomi Campbell, Joan Smalls, and Serena Williams
Photos: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

Ellis Ross was among a star-studded crowd at Paris’ Palais Brongniart that included Rihanna (her growing baby bump encased in a flesh-colored leather minidress and matching shearling), A$AP Rocky, Pharrell Williams, Idris Elba and Luka Sabbat. Designers Olivier Rousteing (Balmain), Grace Wales Bonner, Jerry Lorenzo (Fear of God) and Tremaine Emory (Denim Tears) were also in attendance, among others. But there were plenty of stars on Off-White’s catwalk, too; among a bevy of veteran and newly minted supermodels were Naomi Campbell, Joan Smalls and Adut Akech, joined by Abloh’s friend and occasional muse Serena Williams.

Wearing Abloh’s final designs for the label he founded, they wound their way around a tremendous, low-hung chandelier, several models bearing flags similar to those once flown at the museums hosting Abloh’s 2019 traveling exhibition “Figures of Speech.” Each was emblazoned with his signature slogan: “Question Everything.”

Despite the show’s theme of an “imaginary experience,” what isn’t in question is that in his brief life and career, the multifaceted Abloh accomplished more than most could possibly imagine. His evolution at Off-White was no different; though his tenure as its creative director was tragically cut short, his final designs fulfilled a wish he’d shared with Vogue in 2021, ironically during his last appearance at Paris Fashion Week: “Off-White should be adult.”

The Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection, most of which was designed by Abloh himself, was exactly that. In keeping with his DJ alter-ego, several looks evoked a remix of landmark fashion moments, among them Tom Ford’s now-legendary 1995 collection for Gucci and Alexander McQueen‘s live spray-painting of a tulle gown on his 1999 runway. The latter came to mind as the iconic Debra Shaw took the runway for the finale, contorting her torso in a cropped, twisted and logo-bearing white jersey top paired with an ivory equestrian cap and massive shredded tulle skirt adorned with sky blue spray paint—and its own leash.

Debra Shaw closes Virgil Abloh’s final show during the Off-White Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022-2023 show Spaceship Earth: An “Imaginary Experience” at Palais Brongniart during Paris Fashion Week on February 28, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images)

But while nostalgic, those references took on new life in a collection that was also a poignant reminder of Abloh’s unique genius. As reported on-site by WWD:

On the runway, cameramen swooped around the models dressed in outfits ranging from a sharp black pantsuit to a sparkly lilac micro minidress and chunky quilted jackets and hiking boots, part of a new skiwear capsule for women and men. Williams, who has worn custom Off-White outfits on court, walked in a tie-dye print bodysuit with ruched leggings, topped with a figure-hugging sheer sleeveless dress.

But the big news was the launch of the “High Fashion” line, with a show of 28 looks that read like a who’s who of modeling. This was haute couture for the Gen-Z set, underlined by the casual attitude of the models sweeping past in layers of millefeuille pleating and heavy trains, sporting headgear ranging from baseball caps the size of riding helmets to elongated bucket hats.

Source: Women’s Wear Daily
Credit: Fashion Feed/YouTube

With Abloh’s influence so evident on the runway, one was also confronted by the fact that his final collection’s debut occurred exactly three months to the day of his death on November 28, 2021. Off-White, which is majority-owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has yet to announce a new creative director—or directors, as has been also been teased. But there is apparently another new development on deck for the brand, as a beauty line will likely debut this spring, reports both WWD and Business of Fashion. All told, while the fashion world continues to reckon with the loss of Abloh’s incredible and seemingly boundless imagination, his vision for Off-White will live on.

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).

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