Off-White takes political charge in Florence with latest collection
Fashion and art have united once again. The most recent dose of refreshment comes from Pitti Uomo – the Florence leg of Men’s Fashion Week – with the SS18 collection showcased by guest brand Off-White last night. The fashion/art collision comes with the added contribution of visual artist Jenny Holzer, whose voice and input was used to create a politically charged collaborative collection.
Off-White founder Virgil Abloh announced the collaboration two weeks ago, with anticipation remaining strong since. Entitled ‘Temperature’, the collection was unveiled last night in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. Guests were given the option of wearing their invitation – which came in the form of bright orange t-shirts in true Off-White style. On its front: life vest instructions. On its back: “I’ll never forgive the ocean”, a quote by poet Omid Shams. Given that Shams fled to Europe from Iraq, it was implied the show was set to provide a form of commentary on humanitarian crisis.
And it did. The black time-of-day made way for the burning colour of the t-shirt to stand out on guests, but this was topped by Jenny Holzer’s projected feature. Graphic, bold typography set the backdrop for the show – a reeling projection of poems collected by Holzer flowing in alliance with models that powerfully travelled along the runway of the open space. “In this poem I will take shelter until human takes its meaning back, until love defeats politics”. “Although your bullet will tear apart my body, you, enemy, will not kill me”. Poems were extracted from artists living as exiles, bringing with them deeply emotional comments on human experiences of war. They were endless and they were politically charged – initiating a statement from the offset (lit in off-white – apt). And this continued through to the collection.
Abloh has been a forward-thinking designer ever since he debuted his first collection back in 2013. Maybe that’s why his brand has gained much success and recognition in such a short period. Street style meets high style in his designs, which are predominantly consumed by young men. This new SS18 menswear collection showed an experimentation with industrial fabrics and tech-driven frames. There was also the addition of the revamped white dress shirt, and a quick nod to the Renaissance surroundings of the Palazzo through a pair of high waisted floral pants. And not forgetting the artistic contribution of Jenny Holzer. Her presence was carefully placed within the collection, many clothes featuring tech-powered name badges that rolled through text like the political messages consuming the wall behind. As an artist long respected for her manner of commenting on feminism and politics, Holzer was the perfect contribution to a collection steeped in statement. These added features proved fashion’s power in starting conversations that are needed – a way of addressing our current times.
The SS18 collection doesn’t come as a debut collaboration for Abloh. Prior to this included artists like Tremaine Emory and brands like No Vacancy Inn. But how did this one differ? It was more than showing just fashion. It showed a stance, a message. Refugee crisis, terrorism, warfare – it addressed them all. Speaking to Vogue’s Sarah Mower, Abloh commented that “I’m a millennial brand. Kids will go and research the messaging they see on Instagram. Are we talking about garments, or are we talking about the world at large?” The youth of today would answer the latter part without hesitation. Abloh took to showing this message in Pitti – an opportunity to speak to a big agenda and therefore the perfect place to do it. Fortunately for those of us who couldn’t be there in person, the show was livestreamed. And then uploaded, so we can watch it over and over. A burning runway and a burning collection filled with power and political charge.
Discover Off-White SS18 in collaboration with Jenny Holzer via the link below