Off-White founder and Kanye West creative director Virgil Abloh was introduced before his lecture at Columbia University as “the ultimate multi-hyphenate” and “the leading voice of now”. At the New York college, the creative mastermind addressed an audience with his ‘Everything in Quotes’ lecture.
It’s part of the school’s architecture program, GSAPP, where Abloh was invited along by the university’s adjunct professor of architecture Michael Rock. Rock and Abloh both met at university. The Chicago-based designer received his undergraduate in civil engineering at the University of Madison and his masters in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Abloh introduced Rock to Kanye West, and Rock contributed to the spaces used for Ye’s second fashion show in Paris, Cannes film festival and the launch of Yeezy.
“The name Off-White feels wrong, so that felt right,” he says in his lecture. Abloh touches upon his time at university working through becoming a creator, the birth of Off-White, the Yeezus cover artwork and using humour, irony and abstraction in his work.
He asserts that “humour is an entry point for humanity,” something that’s essential for modern ideas to work in a creative space. Detailing how he was classically trained in school to be “this or that”, pointing to a presentation slide that says “Black. Grey. White”, he says that “grey doesn’t define the middle of those two things”.
“At all times, every Instagram post, every invite and a flyer, every store that I open is juxtaposing two things – either something dissimilar or something very much alike,” says Abloh. He creates “not the absolute of two things, but the in between.”