Virgil Abloh’s Mid-Oughts Blog Will Warm Your Heart!!!
The Louis Vuitton menswear designer's love for pomegranate juice, Jil Sander print, and “Project Runway” is not to be underestimated.
Virgil Abloh, the new artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, absolutely loves It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. “In the last 2 days I have watched like 6 episodes… and I am hooked.” His favorite brand of kitchen knife is Global, (also a favorite of Anthony Bourdain, FYI): “Any product that has a concept rooted in bringing together Italian design aesthetics, German durability, and Japanese precision is on to something.” And he is a huge fan Karl Lagerfeld interviews. “‘Designers shouldn’t talk, they should just design.’ –real talk.”
While countless column inches have been dedicated to Abloh, his design practice, and his brand, Off-White, it’s unlikely you knew any of this about him. Unless, by chance, you were an avid reader of The Brilliance between 2006 and 2009.
Launched in 2005 by two Chicago-based creatives, Benjamin Edgar and Chuck Anderson, The Brilliance was essentially a streetwear-led blog which emerged around the same time as Hypebeast and Slamxhype, and contained random observations on sneakers, hotels, and iPhones. Their friend Virgil joined them a year later, regularly posting about things he liked, what inspired him, plus detailing recent purchases. Just Bought: RAF SIMONS x Eastpak Backpack!!! is essentially a product unboxing video, but in word-form: “I admit I am a consumer and I love design and pay attention to brands so this is gonna work out perfect.” (Side note: he was absolutely wild for triple-exclamation marks back in the day—a precursor to “everything in quotes,” perhaps.)
Although Abloh is now as famous as some of the celebrities who wear his clothing, it's not unusual that he used to blog. It was the mid- to late-2000s, and people had yet to develop crippling anxieties about oversharing online. Even Kanye had a blog. (By this time, Abloh was already working with West as his creative director. Maybe they blogged together too?) But while Kanye’s is long gone, The Brilliance remains, and serving as an unfiltered insight into the mind of pre-fame Abloh.
When we consider Abloh as we know him today, some posts are fascinatingly prescient. In April 2008’s Virgil is: still in Tokyo via NYC!!!, he writes about attending the opening gala of the Brooklyn Museum’s 2008 Takashi Murakami retrospective, where the museum recreated the Chinatown stalls that sell counterfeit handbags and stocked them with the real Louis Vuitton and Murakami goods. “Highlight of that was seeing the bootleg ridden chinatown Canal Street leading into the actual building since Murakami’s print is the most bootlegged LV print…so cool seeing $3,000 bags on the ground. I appreciate seeing a huge brand like that have fun with their image in a satirical way.” Abloh’s love affair with ironically subverting notions of luxury is no recent phenomenon; it's been part of his aesthetic for at least a decade.
An entry from 2006 suggests it stretches back even further. “So I cruised thru the Gucci shop on my lunch break cause I heard something crazy was going on and it was indeed true,” he writes. Gucci, he reports, was selling official bootleg-style Gucci t-shirts.
“Of course, they are $200 something. Yes $200 bucks for a t-shirt..and no I didn’t buy it,” he balks in ellipsis form. “I still think the idea is awesome,” he continues. “In their design meeting some lowly intern is like, ‘what if we make our Canal Street version Gucci Tee…give something back to the hood…’ and them being like, ‘Okay!?’”
He adds an intriguing caveat: “The sad thing is, the $10 fakes are better. Graphic wise, design proportion, and actually cotton t-shirt wise too. The expensive ones are too refined, there’s nothin’ hood about them…” That may decode the logic behind the garment that would first bring Abloh’s design ethos to popular attention: in 2013, he screenprinted rugby shirts purchased from Ralph Lauren and sold them for $550. (Exactly a decade later, official Gucci bootlegs appeared again, becoming one of the must-have fashion items of 2016.)
Other times, Abloh’s fashion posts are simply fun (or as he might write: “fun!!!”). He writes about how much he enjoys Project Runway, and muses about what a streetwear equivalent would be like: “Could you imagine…the judges would be A-ron [Bondaroff], Lupe [Fiasco], and Hiroshi [Fujiwara]. A challenge would be to design a hoodie that wasn’t all over print.” Remember: this was 2008, the height of the Soulja-Boy fuelled Bape era. All over prints were everywhere.
Some posts have little to do with fashion or clothes at all. He enjoys The Standard Hotel, for example, because it has a good selection of magazines and free Wifi. The “icing on the cake is the iHome iPod stereo thing that actually charges my forever dead iPhone while blasting Sebastian Tellier,” he adds. His Pantone card is his best friend: “Mine is like an AMEX card, I never leave home with out it.” Oh, and he likes POM pomegranate juice: “To kick off the holiday weekend I hosted a bunch of friends over on a cocktail party type vibe. The overall favorite of the night came in the form these POM martinis in rocks glasses of course. Have you had pomegranate juice before?”
It’s genuinely hard to read these posts and not warm to him. Not just because I have had pomegranate juice before, and it is therefore relatable content, but also because of the sincerity and enthusiasm that accompanies each post. You get the impression that Virgil is first and foremost a fan. He nerds-out about clothes in a way loads of us do, and has gone from posting about why he loves Jil Sander Marble Print!!! to being handed the reins at one of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands. Against the backdrop of a news cycle that can feel relentlessly bleak, there’s a feel-good aspect to his ascent from Brilliance blogger to Louis Vuitton artistic director. Dreams really do come true, kids!!!