Every object was a canvas

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Every object was a canvas
“Dorm Room,” 2019, includes a pile of Ikea collaborations, seemingly assembled via tornado, in the Virgil Abloh exhibition, "Figures of Speech," at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Aug. 12, 2019. Throughout his life, Virgil Abloh was obsessed with the idea of collaboration, and many of his partnership projects were cornerstones of hypebeast culture. Whitten Sabbatini/The New York Times.

by André Wheeler

NEW YORK, NY.- Throughout his life, Virgil Abloh was obsessed with the idea of collaboration, and many of his partnership projects were cornerstones of hypebeast culture. This makes sense for a cross-disciplinary artist who sharpened the visions of other artists, including Kanye West and ASAP Rocky. As founder and CEO of Off-White and, later, artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, he expanded the idea of what a collaboration could be. Evian water bottles, Ikea furniture, Warby Parker frames, compostable Cha Cha Matcha cups. To Abloh, every object was a canvas.

Today collaborations have become, in the eyes of many, a runaway train. The glut of partnerships inevitably means that they often feel void of emotional connection. This was never the case for Abloh, whose personal and artistic interests always acted as his compass. One day he would work with the vegan cafe he frequented for lunch, the next with a multinational brand.

And the products almost always became instant totems. Many shoes to come out of his lucrative, yearslong partnership with Nike are listed on resale markets for more than 10 times their original price. A limited-edition Mercedes-Benz and a Louis Vuitton collaboration with Bathing Ape creator Nigo were among Abloh’s final projects.

November 2015


One of Off-White’s first collaborations was with this iconic Los Angeles skate shop. The brand, only 3 years old at this point, was so new that the capsule was pitched as its first foray into graphic tees. The category would later become a hero product for the logo-centric brand.

June 2016


This collection drew from fishermen motifs, highlighting Abloh’s penchant for unexpected references. “The style of dress in that form-meets-function field I found interesting to explore with an Off-White sensibility,” he told GQ magazine at the time.

November 2016


Here’s when the collaborations really started kicking off. Abloh was commissioned by the denim brand to create 11 looks that featured spliced fabrics with bold, contrasting colors. The release was a hit.

December 2016

Chrome Hearts

The distinctive visual identity of Off-White was really beginning to take shape at this point. The tee-focused drop featured what would become popular motifs for the brand, including a highlighter-green colorway and text-heavy designs.

July 2017

Warby Parker

Abloh designed Wayfarer-inspired sunglasses for the brand. They sold quickly, as would many future Abloh collaborations.

September 2017

Lil Uzi Vert

Abloh pulled a Tom Ford here and directed the music video for the emo rapper’s smash hit “XO Tour Llif3.” The video, with nearly 500 million views, even kicks off with the Off-White logo at the bottom. A true branded experience.

November 2017


With these pieces, the first of multiple collaborations, Off-White continued its streak of teaming up with some of the biggest legacy retail brands.

November 2017


Some of Abloh’s most popular and buzzy designs came in the form of his long-running Nike collaboration. The partnership kicked off with Abloh reconstructing 10 popular Nike models. During his time with Nike, Abloh also designed custom-made tennis dresses for Serena Williams, one of which featured a black tutu.

July 2018


A collaboration that, arguably, infused new life into the German suitcase brand after it joined the LVMH group in 2016. Possibly for the first time, see-through suitcases were in.

October 2018


Instagram is a key way that Off-White’s younger customers engage with fashion. So of course Off-White teamed up with the popular app to create face filters that allowed users to try on its new neon green sunglasses.

December 2018

Cha Cha Matcha

Abloh’s creative ventures were not centered purely on fashion. For this one, he redesigned the to-go cups for a trendy matcha cafe with locations in Los Angeles and New York.

January 2019

Mr Porter

Remember office wear? Well, before the work from home era, Abloh dedicated a 40-piece capsule collection with e-retailer Mr Porter to modern office wear. In his vision, cherry red khakis and long-sleeve logo tees are the perfect Tuesday look.

November 2019


Another highly successful collaboration, this one led to select pieces selling on resale markets for astronomical markups. The collection, which featured a green rug emblazoned with “WET GRASS,” had hypebeasts waiting outside Ikeas as if they were Supreme shops.

July 2021


Off-White digitized its fall 2021 collection for Snapchat’s popular bitmojis, allowing users to deck out their personal avatars in sidebags and logos galore.

November 2021

Nike x Air Jordan x Off-White

In these pieces, released shortly before Abloh’s death, the designer focused his eye on remaking Jordan apparel, applying his popular cut-and-stitch aesthetic.

November 2021

Louis Vuitton Men’s x Nigo

The second collaboration between Abloh and Japanese designer Nigo was also released shortly before Abloh’s death, merging aughts-flavored streetwear tropes with the luxury house codes.

November 2021


One of the designer’s final projects was a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz. Titled “Project Maybach,” the decked-out coupe is heavy on the glitz and can be viewed at the Rubell Museum in Miami through Thursday.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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