The creative polymath gave a lecture at New York’s Columbia University in early 2017. Here’s why it’s important.

Virgil Abloh, the Off-White founder and Kanye West collaborator recently presented a lecture ‘Everything in Quotes’, held at Columbia University. Introduced as “the leading voice of now” and “the ultimate multi-hyphenate” he spoke as part of the university’s architecture program which is assisted by professor Michael Rock, an old university consociate of Ablohs. The two had previously worked together on the spaces for Kanye’s second fashion show in Paris, Cannes film festival and at the launch of Yeezy. Native to and still currently based out of Chicago, Abloh received an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at the University of Madison and a masters in architecture from the Illinois institute of technology.

Off-White has become one of the most talked-about brands in fashion in the past year or so, a lavishly produced and priced streetwear brand sold at Barneys, Selfridges, Bergdorf Goodman, and Colette, as well as four Off-White boutiques, located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Singapore with plans for a New York boutique in the pipeline. Grouped with a newer breed of labels like Hood by Air and Vetements, that claim their power in the digital consumer marketplace by keeping the undivided attention of those millennials that can fathom the idea of spending $573 on a hoodie.

Throughout the lecture he touches upon his time at university, working through becoming a creator, the birth of Off-White, the Yeezus cover artwork and using humour, irony and abstraction in his work. He asserts that “humour is an entry point for humanity,” something that’s essential for modern ideas to work in a creative space. Detailing how he was classically trained in school to be “this or that”, pointing to a presentation slide that says “Black. Grey. White”, he says that “grey doesn’t define the middle of those two things”.

“At all times, every Instagram post, every invite and a flyer, every store that I open is juxtaposing two things – either something dissimilar or something very much alike,” says Abloh. He creates “not the absolute of two things, but the in between.”

Watch the full talk below.

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