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Mar 1, 2022
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Off-White: Formulaic fashion flop

Published
Mar 1, 2022

Pandemonium ruled outside the Off-White show in the former stock market of Paris on Monday evening, hundreds of fans roaring as in walked Rihanna and A$AP Rocky. But on the catwalk there was the distinct sense of a washout.
 
A show staged on the opening evening of the eight-day Paris season that was climaxed by frighteningly tepid applause, despite the presence of supes like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Kaia Gerber, Kendall Jenner and the Hadid sisters.


Off-White Fall/Winter 2022 collection - Off-White


In a word, the first show from Off-White after the tragic death of its founder Virgil Abloh never took off, despite all the razzmatazz. From an invitation, that was a mock safety box, meant to be opened in 2030 by recipients to the bizarre staging. Why invite 300 guests into the grand marble of the Palais Brongniart, and then squeeze them into a white box? Made even more claustrophobic by the presence of a giant chandelier, reaching from ceiling to floor.
 
A collection devoid of any powerful fashion statement, largely unconnected to the current zeitgeist. An anomalous collection created by an anomalous studio team.

A largely monochromatic opening of competently tailored suits; speckled anthracite mini-boleros with mini-skirts and lots of tummy; and a very ungainly series of jumpers with odd cutout chevron patterns. 
 
During his intense but too short career, Abloh was famous for his dictum that if you changed 5% of an idea, then you could call it your own. His successor team clearly share this highly debatable notion. For they sent out intreccio bags that screamed Bottega Veneta and plaid kilt suit combinations that recalled Vivienne Westwood and jockey hats similar to Gucci’s equestrian show last year.
 
Though the most telling reference of all, were a series of candle-shaped heels on sling-backs, worn under cocktail dresses. Which resulted in a huge collective eye roll by dozens of people in the audience. For, to a tutored eye, they immediately recalled looks from last season’s collection by Jonathan Anderson for Loewe
 
And who was sitting in the front row? Anderson. Right between Alexandre Arnault, scion of the family that own LVMH, which now controls Off-White, and Sidney Toledano, boss of the luxury conglomerate’s fashion division. Jonathan barely clapped at the finale. Quelle surprise.
 
The best early look was actually a handsome youth in off-white redingote, loose pants and white buck boots carrying a flag reading, “Question Everything.”
 
A show divided into two parts, where the second was billed as “couture.” It turned out to be a series on modern-day crinolines, made in novel materials. But whether bouffant white cotton Grand Guignol gowns; macro plissé Venetian ball looks or sexy American sports fan in multiple scarves (merci, Conner Ives), they all looked more contrived than cool.
 
That said, Gigi Hadid did look really sensational in a staggered tulle and taffeta gown, as did DJ Honey Dijon in a velour men’s suit, where one trouser leg was twice as large as the other. Virgil clearly hired one very good tailor. Not enough however, we’re afraid, to save this collection.
 
The day had begun with a hagiography predicting a golden future on a fashion news website, where the two main managers of Off-White, Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, where Abloh was menswear designer, and Davide De Giglio, CEO of New Guards, which controls Off-White’s license, predicting a truly glowing future for Virgil’s brand.
 
Claiming that as Christian Dior barely spent 10 years in charge of his house, Abloh’s decade of work in Off-White would lead to the birth of a similarly iconic fashion marque. Which sounded a lot like our old friend hubris was back in town.
 
And, which only reminded readers of whom succeeded Monsieur Dior?  His name was Yves Saint Laurent. Virgil’s successors, by contrast, didn’t even take a bow. Perhaps just as well given the damning with faint praise applause.

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