Virgil Abloh, No. 1 Beneficiary of the Cosign, Changes His Story
Virgil Abloh goes on the record about his Off-White label and the now-defunct Pyrex Vision brand in a new interview with The FADER. He also boasts that his graphic design skills are bar none (as you can tell by the $2 screen prints he puts on sweaters) and details his new womenswear collection titled "I only smoke when I drink" (original). But the real meat of the interview comes when he talks about Rugbygate.
For those not familiar, Rugbygate refers to the time Abloh went into Ralph Lauren's Rugby stores, while they were in the throes of liquidating, and bought every plaid shirt that he could find for $40. Abloh then put his well-known brand's screen print, Pyrex, on the back of the shirts and sold them for $550 each.
In his own words:
"So it may look like I’m doing whatever, but I knew. I used to tell the kids in my shop, RSVP: 'I’m gonna print across the bottom of shorts. I’m gonna screen print on Rugby flannels.' It even felt wrong when I was doing it. [...] People were like, 'How are gonna charge $500 for a Rugby marked up from $40?' and I'm like 'You can't get that Rugby anymore. The one that’s $40 in the store, I bought it, now you can't get it!' That’s intellectual to me. That’s an art project."
So, to be perfectly clear, Abloh knew it was wrong to put his brand's name on another brand's garment, but did it anyway. Then, he admits he "deadstocked" the flannels in order to charge an unbelievable markup (approximately 700%) because he felt the Rugby flannels were suddenly rare, and therefore more valuable. But then why did he use his "superior" graphic design skills to Photoshop the Rugby logo off of the shirt? Doesn't add up.
We can't blame the designer, caught red-handed, for trying to cover up the story. Abloh isn't going to admit he's a lazy hack who bought someone else's design, put a $2 screen print on it, and passed it off as his own.
Also in the Fader interview, Abloh talks about his use of Champion hoodies — the common gym sweater that sells for approximately $40 on Amazon.com. (Which he then adds graphics to and sells for hundreds of dollars.) It's cool that Virgil is making his money, but when asked about his streetwear influences, he says:
Off-White [...] comes from being a student of what Aaron Bondaroff and Alife brought to streetwear culture: taking something that’s not yours and flipping it, taking something that’s high-class and giving it a bit of low-class edge. I take a garment that is fitted — made in Milan, cut and sewn — and then screen print on it like it’s a Canal Street bootleg. Any graphic I put out, you’ll be able to look at it and see that it’s part hood, part Upper East Side.
So, Abloh justifies his prices by mixing high-end fashion with low-end streetwear, a popular trend these days. What he doesn't explain is which part of the screen-printed Champion hoodies constitutes high-end? Is it the $40 Champion hoodie, or is it the $2 screen print?
Abloh's collections have improved over the years, but let's not forget that he made his name by lying to consumers. Now he has the audacity to lie to us again, telling us it was all part of his plan. We're led to wonder: If a relatively unknown finds success by lying to his audience, what incentive does he have to change that same game plan, even when all eyes are on him?
The cosign can do powerful things for a career — specifically, a Kanye West cosign did powerful things for Virgil Abloh's career and others, such as Taz Arnold. Like Taz Arnold, Abloh chose to put his label over another brand's work. Unlike Taz Arnold, Abloh has somehow stayed around long enough to trick the out-of-touch, high-end fashion world that he's actually a voice of a generation.