PFW SS20: Off-White

WHEN Off-White’s chief creative Virgil Abloh announced that he would not be attending this season’s Paris Fashion Week due to unspecified health reasons, fashion acolytes all over the world were understandably worried. After all, Abloh is the face and the heart of the brand; without Abloh’s creative and branding genius, the brand as we know it would cease to exist. Heave a sigh of relief: as models of diverse ages and ethnicities sashayed down the runway at Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou, Abloh’s artistic presence was deeply felt.

His inclination for a glam, souped-up definition of atheleisure was certainly as omnipresent as ever. It was expressed in light cotton tank tops ruched at the chest, or unexpectedly cut out at the midriff; short-sleeved collared tops, usually a thing of the workplace, recasted in summery tunic or dress form; or terry cloth, envisioned as a jaunty body suit, and tied at the neck like a cardigan.

Many of these were worn with skin-tight leggings (nothing screams atheleisure more than a pair of slick leggings emblazoned with a designer logo) or wide-legged leather trousers with oversized pockets and circular cut-outs at the thigh or ankle, in shades of optic white or jet black. The women who Abloh is dressing is undoubtedly a modern one, for whom fitness classes and jet-setting parties are a common occurrence.

Also present was Abloh’s deft tailoring hand and focus on technical fabrication. Hemlines were cut asymmetrically while jacket suits were cinched or structured sharply, punctuated again with the motif of circular cut-outs, which were repeated in structured leather bags too. Notable too, was the use of  weaving, a technique that seems to be having a resurgence across the runways (see Dior’s use of raffia or Marni’s fishnet dresses).

For Off-White, this weaving came in the form of oversized netted bags, worn on the shoulder or strapped ornamentally across the body. Netting also appeared as layered fishnet dresses, donned over fitting bodysuits or over the naked body. While other designers might have taken to weaving and netting as a technical emblem for visions of bucolic utopias, Abloh recasts the technique in a different light, one that is sexier and far more contemporary.

Speckled throughout the collection were some noteworthy gowns, more appropriate for the milieu of the red-carpet than the urban shopping malls that Off White clients typically frequent, but still very much Abloh in terms of their fabrication and silhouettes. Take, for instance, a white tent-like gown, built of technical fabric, tight at the body but draped in reams of fabric at the waist.

Or the hot pink number worn by Bella Hadid, one of Abloh’s favourites. Cowled at the neckline but billowing and voluminous at the bottom, the dress evinces Abloh’s co-mingling of casual and couture — think 1990s tank top meets ‘50s Charles James-esque volume — which he executes with panache.

Bella and Gigi Hadid walked, caps were worn with gowns, and leggings were well and truly trendy again. Despite his absence, all was status quo at the house of Abloh.

by Kay Ean Leong

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