Inside the Off-White fall ’18 show, which took place Thursday night during Paris Fashion Week, the front row was packed with celebs and cool kids alike, from influencer and model Luka Sabbat and DJ Sita Abellan to Justine Skye and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (who walked arm-in-arm around the room with Vogue’s Anna Wintour), plus Christian Combs (Diddy’s son) and Cordell Broadus (Snoop Dogg’s son), hip hop scions that have been making their way through fashion month debut both on and off the runway (they walked Tommy Hilfiger’s #TommyNow show in Milan on Sunday).
But outside, the street scene was complete mayhem. Fans of the brand (and its creator Virgil Abloh) swarmed the door, pushing and shoving to make it inside. Guests with tickets had to fight their way through, and there were even reports that one editor was hit in the face, while another person fainted in the crowd.
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Handlers were eventually able to get ticketed guests inside, the show started with minimal delays and the crowds (apparently there from an Off-White pop-up shop held nearby earlier in the day) discipated. Still, the buzz outside was all anyone could talk about inside (despite a generally strong show).
Fashion, despite its many efforts to be more inclusive, has remained a mostly exclusive experience. Much of that is due to the traditional show format itself, which accommodates editors, buyers and industry insiders and excludes everyone but the top customers. It’s been widely reported in the past few year that millennials value experiences over material goods, and in the context of fashion, it makes sense: Why would someone want to buy into an industry that would exclude them from the most experiential part of the process?
But Abloh is onto something, and the rabid thirst felt outside his show proves it. By building a brand founded in streetwear and working his way up — while remaining accessible to his audience and clientele in the process — the designer has cultivated the type of loyal following that other brands are desperate to attain. For many young people starting to pay attention to fashion now, Off-White is their entry point, and other designers and brands would do well to pay more attention to Abloh’s democratic-but-still-elevated approach to his fans. Even the persistence of naysayers within the industry (who come with the territory) are offset by a loyal inner circle of models (including Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, who both walked the show), musicians and other creatives, with whom he often collaborates.
It also helps that the designer has aligned himself with one of the biggest brands of all time, and a sneaker one at that: Abloh’s “The Ten” collaboration with Nike has proven to be so successful that the shoe company just announced it is debuting its Nike Unlaced women’s retail concept with unisex sizing of the shoes.
Abloh would be wise to streamline his many collaborations (just this week he is celebrating one with Chrome Hearts and another with perfume brand Byredo) and focus on his biggest commercial success, with Nike, as it’s been key in crowning him fashion’s biggest ambassador of the moment.