For his first outing as art and image director of Off-White, Ib Kamara celebrated founder Virgil Abloh with a performance rooted in African identity.
The crush of fans in front of the venue of the Off-White show at Paris Fashion Week was familiar. Virgil Abloh may no longer be among us, but the brand he created continues to engage kids who saw in him a portal into the previously hermetic world of high fashion.
Inside, a white cube stood in the center of a vast blue-carpeted space bathed in blue light. For his first outing as art and image director of Off-White, Ib Kamara chose a signature color that he plans to make a core element of the brand’s identity as it charts its course following the untimely death of Abloh, known as “V” to his inner circle.
In keeping with the founder’s collective approach, Kamara devised an immersive performance that brought together afro-punk band Tshegue, Cape Verdean dancer and choreographer Nicolas Huchard and London-based filmmaker Stephen Isaac Wilson.
“It’s a community effort to bring it all to life,” Kamara said ahead of the show, held on the eve of what would have been Abloh’s 42nd birthday.
Born in Sierra Leone and based in London, Kamara is known for work that explores gender codes, queerness and Black identity, all themes that Abloh brought from the sidelines to the center of the luxury conversation.
His coed collection was inspired by the human body and featured anatomical details, such as female torsos stitched in white thread on suit jackets. Denim pieces were laser-printed with full-body X-rays, which also appeared as a ghostly motif on a white suit.
Kamara toyed with the meteor holes that have become an Off-White signature by placing midriff portholes on everything from a biker-style leather jumpsuit to a sleeveless sweater dress.
The look was in tune with the upscale urban aesthetic that Abloh established, though Kamara brought in more personal touches, with body-con knits with cording appliqué in geometric patterns that recalled traditional African art, and the closing look, a head-covering floral-embroidered bridal veil. “I’m bringing my African point of view,” he said.
Designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Junya Watanabe have long borrowed references from African cultures for their collections. An African designer bringing his cultural contribution to a brand owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is a small revolution that’s not lost on Kamara.
“The legacy of V and of Off-White is opening doors, I hope, to kids around the world to be inspired to dream with us,” he said.
Outside the show, a reporter was accosted by two young men who said they’d traveled from London to “network” with fashion industry insiders and promote their streetwear brand, Spectrum Only. It was a vivid illustration of Abloh’s legacy: he’d made it, so why couldn’t they?