It was a tale of two very different Off-Whites on Thursday in Paris at the brand’s fall ’19 show. Everyone in the audience might have been wearing variations on Virgil Abloh’s numerous collaborations (many in spring ’19 neon), but on the runway it was all his own — in a collection that was equal parts streetwear and an attempt at more elevated insider-fashion codes.
That duality was best exemplified by its top models, sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, who walked out one after the other to close the show wearing completely different looks, right down to the sneakers (on Gigi) and checkerboard scrunched ankle boots (on Bella).
After a spring ’19 collection that was heavy on the Nike collab (not just in the sneakers, but also in the gym-socks-as-garments way), how and if the athletic brand would at all factor into the new collection was a big question leading up to the show. Add to that the fact that Off-White showed at the same AccorHotels Arena complex as Parisian brand Koché (which just debuted its own Nike partnership), and the Swoosh seemed a sure thing.
But it wasn’t about the Nikes at all, though there were still plenty of sneakers on foot. The shoes, even the athletic ones, were all Virgil Abloh’s own, a continuation of the kicks that the designer debuted back in January (He also introduced a slowy-but-surely-growing Instagram account, @off_white_sneakers, to debut new styles.)
The Nike-less message rang clear: Abloh seems determined to keep control over his own design house, despite being fashion’s reigning collaboration king over the past few seasons — and the artistic director of a major luxury label to boot.
Still, outside influences seemed to abound, like the furry pumps that looked like a tribute to (or derivation of) old Céline, and the distinct Nike-orange that permeated some of the looks. Abloh’s internal ideas also crossed over to the collection, such as the harness belts that carried the same DNA as his Louis Vuitton men’s accessoire.
All influences resulted in an unexpected variety of footwear in the collection, from the aforementioned fuzzy pumps (complete with the designer’s signature cable ties) to glittery oversized boots and ubiquitous sparkly strappy sandals. There were also silver platforms with enormous floppy bows on the side and a pair of tie-dye boots in teal and yellow that are sure to be standouts for the season. All of which point to Abloh’s natural strength in footwear — sneaker or no sneaker.