As well as the Oscar commemorate each year, at the most touching moment of Hollywood’s long self-congratulatory night, actors, directors and film artisans who disappeared in the last 12 months, so do the Grammyremembering musicians, performers, authors and composers who left us last year.
Last night, in Las Vegas, in the usual and moving moment In Memorialamong others was also mentioned Virgil Ablohsnatched from his life by an angiosarcoma, last November 28 at the age of 41.
Nothing strange in tributing – precisely in the great evening in which the most beautiful, loved and listened to music is celebrated – this memory to one stylist and entrepreneur in the fashion industryfounder of the brand Off-Whitebut also creative director (the first of African-American origins for a brand in the French luxury market) of the menswear collections of Louis Vuittonnumbered by Time among the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018.
Nothing strange, considering the fact that for Abloh the interest (and the passion, and the competence, and therefore the relevance) for (street) fashion was born and grew together with that for musica: at the beginning of his career he played as a DJ, then collaborated with Kanye West and Jay-Z (also taking home a Grammy nomination in 2011 as Best Recording Package), and then in his creation the mixture between the two worlds has become more and more solid and inseparable. As inevitable that it was, for those who, like him, had the gift of knowing how to look, interpret and be part of the reality out there.
What, however, seemed strange (read: “wrong” for almost everyone, “discriminatory” for many) is the title assigned to Abloh: “Hip Hop Fashion Designer“. That there is a fashion that winks, or that draws on the clothing of the artists of the hip hop music scene, is fine, it is a fact. But that there are “Hip Hop stylists” we admit we learn it and even with some surprise only now. What, then, is the meaning of this specification? The need for this determination? The usefulness of this addition?
Virgil Abloh was one of the most influential creatives – perhaps even more than stylists – of the last twenty years, without a shadow of a doubt; his work has deeply and irreversibly influenced the course of contemporary fashion. And we can’t think of that National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who awards the Grammys, has somehow wanted to belittle his talent, or the revolutionary scope of his work, or even ghettoize it, as someone wanted to read between the lines.
We prefer to see it as a lightness committed in good faith, and motivated by a basic thrust that moves most of our thoughts: the need to define. Because if it is not possible to take offense at being appealed, whatever that may mean, “hip hop designer” (unless hip hop you really want to interpret it as a synonym of blackwhich would certainly be discriminatory, but this does not seem to us to be the case), but it is possible be perplexed by the need to be labeled, pigeonholed, specified. For convenience, for convenience, for utility: we use and have always used definitions for an apparently valid reason. To simplify, to fluidize, to orient. But the times tell us that we can easily do without labels, whatever they are. Because, rather than adding something, we understand that often paradoxically they take something away.
And a stylist – if he really is a stylist – he just is. Without the need for anything else. And Abloh was: a creative who has spent his entire life slalom between definitions.