Virgil Abloh is arguably the most important and influential designer of the moment. He’s also the most quotable.
With the release of his 10-shoe collab with Nike coming, dubbed “The Ten,” Abloh spoke with media in New York today as part of a series of Nike “Off Campus” events planned for the week. (The first five shoes from the collection arrive at NikeLab stores in New York on Sept. 9.) Aside from letting attendees know how much sleep he gets nightly (-2 hours) or the sneaker that sat at the end of his bed as a teen (Air Jordan 5), he also shared design insights on the collection and provided tips to those interested in a career in fashion.
Check out some of Abloh’s best quotes from the launch event. And make sure to check out our slideshow below for all the Abloh-reimagined styles that are coming out soon.
Why “The Ten” Is Important
“I looked at this whole project as passing the baton and doing right by all the innovation, but adding a lifestyle layer to it. These shoes are icons, they’ve transcended into another space, and this project was sort of highlighting what emotional attachment these objects that are just things you wear on your feet can get a second life, where we can look at them in 2017 and understand how important they were in the past.”
“It’s my goal that those kids sitting at a line at Supreme or know about Staple’s first time they released a Dunk know that there’s an opportunity within Nike, this big corporation, to insert their ideas. … This generation that’s taught themselves how to screen-print T-shirts or skateboard and turn that into a huge industry or make our niche culture relevant, there’s windows within Nike — or any corporation — to insert young ideas, and that’s the premise of my work.”
Work Beyond the Initial No
“The Chuck Taylor, immediately I was like, ‘We have to put the Nike Swoosh on the Chuck Taylor and give that impossible product to the kids.’ … There’s rules to follow, and there’s rules to break, and you have to creatively break the rules. Because this is a huge company, we can’t just start swapping logos and confusing a whole generation on what’s what. If you notice in the finer details of that shoe, my workaround — which I love the first no, because it gives me a strategy on how to get the same idea through — is that there was a Swoosh, and I removed it and cut the Nike label that’s on all the shoes. It’s technically not there, but it’s there.”
Advice for Designers
“Since nothing is going to be perfect anyways, do it on the next one. Iterate. There’s no wrong answers in design.”
“Find your constant source of inspiration and attach onto it. For me, it’s conversations all over the world. This week, I was in Stockholm with Ian Connor and Berlin. We were in Milan, London at Skepta’s launch. The moment of walking in and seeing Grace’s Flower [Stall], Skepta, Wizkid, A$AP Rocky, all of us sitting on couches just like this just talking about, ‘That jacket is cool,’ ‘That new A$AP Mob album is great.’ You’re getting a litmus test for what’s the general consensus. For me, it’s about being attached to the culture — in quotes. I take that inspiration and I do a 200-piece women’s collection in three weeks. I’m never short of ideas or perspective.”
“When someone’s sleeping, someone is working. I figured out this format to join my whole team on a WhatsApp group chat, so it’s all time zones, new ideas if I see something. For example, that shoe [Air Jordan 1] originally was all-white. I was in the airport at Newark [N.J.] and I can remember, I was going through security and I saw somebody in a white pair of Dunks, and I couldn’t tell the difference. I was like, ‘Emergency. The Jordan needs to be the Chicago colorway.’ That shoe would have been sort of an anonymous white shoe. I was thinking about the kids on the Hypebeast comments being like, ‘His career is over. Throw him off the ledge.’”