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If you’re not a fashion devotee, you may not know the name Virgil Abloh. But you surely know the brands with which he’s collaborated in the last year alone: Warby Parker, Nike, Jimmy Choo, and now, IKEA.
The designer and creative director of the brand Off-White hosted a live stream on Monday with IKEA’s creative leader, Henrik Most, in an effort to “democratize” design. So what does that mean, exactly?
Abloh and Most spent 30 minutes answering questions about their design philosophy and the collaboration, and they encouraged viewers to provide feedback on a traditional Oriental rug with Abloh’s signature — capitalized phrase or word between a couple of quotation marks — that is a prototype of the larger “IKEA x Virgil Abloh” collection.
Democratizing the eventual collection also means making it affordable and available to the masses, unlike an Off-White T-shirt that retails for $270, wherein only 300 are sold around the world, says Abloh.
Currently on IKEA’s website, rugs range between roughly $40 and $699 — though Most declined to provide a price for the Abloh “KEEP OFF” Oriental rug prototype.
But why trust millennials and college kids (to whom the 2019 collection will be targeted) for their design aesthetic? “Design in modern times isn’t about speaking at people,” Abloh shares with Yahoo Lifestyle. “It has to start from a mutual conversation in principle.”
Abloh and Most explain that people can contribute to the “open source” project much the same way that Abloh sources talent for his own team: social media. “Everyone on my team is as old as, like, 23,” Abloh explains in the live stream. “I met all of them on Instagram.”
Indeed, he explains how his now-employees were then-aspirants who would comment on his page. Some of the comments elicited a response from Abloh. Another Abloh team member pitched him at an Off-White in-store event.
As for the collection’s would-be aesthetic, shoppers can expect a minimalist, post-modernist feel — two ideals that resonate most with Abloh, he says.
Some of you guessed it! @virgilabloh @off____white prototyping a fresh take on the FRAKTA bag in IKEA’s very own prototype shop in Älmhult. "We’re in a moment where IKEA is transcending, and people are bringing this “do it yourself” culture” to the blue bag. What I’m most interested in is doing that process in partnership with the brand. It’s allowing me to put my opinion on a classic. It’s unique, and distinctly as much of off-white as it's IKEA". Photo @piotrniepsuj . #IKEAtoday #Collaborationpartner #virgilabloh #offwhite #IKEADDD
A post shared by IKEA Today (@ikeatoday) on Jun 7, 2017 at 7:11am PDT
It’s not the first time IKEA’s made headlines on fashion sites over the last few months. Most recently, Abloh himself redesigned IKEA’s classic Frakta bag (yes, the big blue one you buy in-store) using a cardboard-colored material and, again, stamping on a signature Abloh tag — this time one that reads “SCULPTURE.” Before that, Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia released an “IKEA-inspired” tote that is nearly indistinguishable from the original, save the $2,145 price tag.
As for that “KEEP OFF” Oriental rug, Abloh says he wanted to think about new ways to approach something that already exists. “It’s provocative and makes you think. Now, you notice the rug. These words are usually limited to signs to keep you away from something.”
And if you don’t like it? Let him know with the hashtag “IKEA x Virgil.” He’s checking his Instagram.
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