Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear
A fictional business card bearing the name Katharine Parker accompanied Virgil Abloh’s Off-White “Invitation” (quotation marks around nouns has become the label’s branding quirk). But who is she? Apparently, she’s the scheming boss played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1988 Mike Nichols film Working Girl. On the heels of Abloh's Pretty Woman shout-outs last season, this homage supports the idea that his cultural referencing is all encompassing. Yet before he could collaborate with Levi’s Made & Crafted in San Francisco to graft classic pinstripe jeans, he needed to establish how his female peers wear the label of “businesswoman.” His conclusion: Regardless of what they do or how they shop, all rules have been thrown out the corner office window. “My generation, I don’t even know what my friends do. But we’re all eating at Nobu and traveling to Paris,” he said backstage—painting a portrait of the kind of cool girl who has profited from self-promotion and social media, sluggish economy be damned.In any case, dressing the part still applies, which explains why Abloh began his lineup with blue striped shirts that featured unambiguously feminine alterations, followed by a group of jet-set looks in flaming red. Beyond that, a leather field jacket boasting “Woman” across the back; a well-tailored, double-breasted evening jacket paired with Italian dip-dyed pants; and a black-and-white check tiered ruffle gown all but indicated that Off-White had no intention of conforming to white-collar conventions. But Abloh cleverly borrowed from the signaling: Shirts were monogrammed with O.F.F. in red embroidery. The structured bags a girlboss might be inclined to carry were tagged with the brand’s diagonal striping. Even the heraldic crest on Ms. Parker’s card revealed the Off-White arrows. The fact that many pieces weren’t branded—those sophisticated ruffle dresses, the graphic intarsia sweater, or even flat bag belts—suggested that Abloh is able to distinguish street criteria from serious-caliber clothes. “It feels elevated, more luxurious, and with an attention to taste,” he explained. “I’ve made an effort to be more concise.”Abloh has made no secret of striving towards a standard of fashion proficiency that puts him on par with established designers. That delta is still large. Measured, however, against his own short but steady ascent. And judging by the palpable buzz among the crowd (whether or not you count the Kardashian-West clan), this collection was a career best.