The straps play tricks, and the instructions are printed on the shoes. How did OFF-WHITE become so popular?

This week, Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and the founder and designer of the trendy brand OFF-WHITE, stunned the fashion world with the death of cancer. At the same time, with the lament of the fall of such a talented designer in the fashion circle, we found that the shoes designed by him were fired to a sky-high price of 99,999 yuan on some second-hand trading platforms.

Virgil Abloh died at the age of 41, and OFF-WHITE has long become one of the hottest trendy brands in the world in recent years – how did Virgil Abloh, who has just entered 40+, create a new brand in just a few years What about the must-have brand that operates as a fashionista?

I opened up the growth process of OFF-WHITE again, and found that this is not only a brand development logic of entering the circle and then leaving the circle, but also a discussion of the relationship between brands and products. The whole story begins at Virgil Abloh’s college…

In the circle first, then out of the circle

Circle approval is more important than product quality

As the second generation of Ghanaian-American immigrants with African ancestry, Virgil Abloh chose to major in mechanics under his father’s plan as a child. However, it didn’t take long, because he grew up in the suburbs of the United States, Virgil Abloh was deeply influenced by the American dream since he was a child. On the surface, he was a “technical man” who liked trends and hip-hop culture. Part-time DJ, participated in the creation of trendy brands, and organized a fashion forum called THE BRILLIANCE as the main operator.

It is precisely because of this experience that Virgil Abloh, who just graduated with a master’s degree in 2003, didn’t even have time to attend the graduation ceremony, and was named by the famous rapper, Kanye West, who won 21 Grammy Awards (who co-founded Yeezy with Adidas). The one with shoes) invited to join its creative agency, Donda Agency, in the position of chief consultant.

In my new book “Trend: The Secret Behind Brand Detonation and Out of the Circle”, I propose that brand detonation requires a process of “entering the circle first and then leaving the circle”. In fact, the brands we know have also gone through this process.

For example, Nike, its founder Phil Knight was a runner himself, and the other founder was the most well-known track and field coach in the United States at that time, and trained a talented player Prefontaine comparable to the basketball Air Jordan. It is precisely because of his endorsement that Nike’s improved running shoes based on Onitsuka Tiger may quickly open up the US market.

Another example is the trend brand Supreme, which is analyzed in detail in my book. Its founder, James Jebbia, came to New York at the age of 19 and has been involved in the street culture circle. He has cooperated with the originator of trend clothing, Shawn Stüssy, and sold clothes designed by Stüssy. When James Jebbia founded Supreme, he built the Supreme store into a gathering place for skateboarders who could not only buy clothes but also hold parties. Young people who worked or “mixed” in Supreme have stepped out of many street trends. Culturally important figures.

Back to Virgil Abloh. When he entered Kanye West‘s team, in fact, he entered the top trend circle.

Since then, Virgil’s figure has begun to appear in various trend gatherings. Not only that, during this period, Virgil Abloh also followed Kanye to become a FENDI intern for further study in fashion design. Kanye West also appreciates Virgil Abloh very much, wearing Virgil Abloh’s costumes on many public occasions including his concerts to support his little brother.

In 2012, Virgil Abloh, who successfully entered the circle, first created his own fashion brand PYREX VISION. He bought Champion T-shirts and vintage Ralph Lauren flannels at low prices, and then screen-printed them with the Pyrex Vision logo, and these slow-moving items turned into streetwear darlings priced at $550.

Got it, what PYREX VISION sells is the logo.

In fact, before this, the popularity of Supreme, Stüssy and other trendy brands has proved this point of view: it is not so much that street fashion people buy a commodity, it is better to say that they buy a group identity, no matter what it is, as long as Labeled with a group identity, that is, a brand that celebrities in their circle use and recognize on a daily basis, ordinary things become trendy products in seconds. This is also the fundamental reason for the phenomenon of “everything can be Supreme”. For trendy brands, fashion brands and even some niche brands, the attributes of the crowd behind the brand are far more important than the use value of the product.

The trendy products after being labeled have become popular. However, senior trend players are a small circle after all. If you want to get out of the circle and win more people’s favor, you must solve the problems that the public pays attention to. One is the unique design of clothing. Another is the attribute that clothing should have from the very beginning: quality.

Clear positioning and become a popular symbol for young people

In 2013, Virgil Abloh closed PYREX VISION and launched OFF-WHITE the following year. Different from the PYREX VISION OEM, OFF-WHITE has chosen a positioning between trendy brands and luxury goods. On the one hand, it covers the style of trendy brands, and on the other hand, it refers to the fabrics and workmanship of luxury goods, which is full of street feeling. In addition to taking into account the user’s demand for quality.

In order to cover a wider range of millennials and Generation Z with more spending power at the user level, OFF-WHITE‘s logo also uses street safety signs, zebra crossings and other signs to further fit the younger generation’s “symbol consumption” demand.

In addition, with the trend circle and fashion circle resources accumulated by Virgil Abloh in the past ten years, OFF-WHITE has won the recognition of many celebrity media when it first appeared in Paris Spring/Summer Fashion Week. In 2015, Virgil Abloh was also shortlisted for the LVMH Young Designer Award with OFF-WHITE.

At this point, OFF-WHITE officially opened the market, and in the days that followed, the popular “yellow belt” appeared.

When it comes to the “yellow belt”, many people must have heard about it – it is a yellow Industrial Belt belt produced by OFF-WHITE in the 2016 autumn and winter. Various measurement data.

As soon as this $209 belt came out, just like “Wild Wolf DISCO” in 2019, it suddenly became popular in the entire trend circle. Major fashionistas put a belt under the matching of different items. Played tricks.

Duan’dua, many European and American stars including Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Beyoncé have become fans of OFF-WHITE, and Virgil Abloh and the OFF-WHITE design team have even become Justin Bieber wedding dress designers.

The street-like design style, the product quality of shoulder-to-shoulder fashion items, the recognition of the fashion circle, the popularity of stars and the explosion of models, everything seems to indicate that OFF-WHITE is only one opportunity away from “out of the circle” . Soon, the opportunity arose.

Out of the circle by joint name

As we all know, Supreme was founded in 1994, but it was really known to the world in 2017, relying on the joint name with the luxury brand LV.

Speaking of which, I have to mention the joint name of Supreme and LV. As early as 2000, Supreme once spoofed LV’s Logo and became a defendant because of this. The background of this big story has always been known to everyone. However, it is surprising that at the 2017 Paris Autumn and Winter Fashion Week, the two major brands ignored their previous suspicions. Come together, suddenly bombed the entire fashion circle.

Then Supreme took the joint name to the extreme, so that everything can be Supreme.

With the audience brought by co-branding with other brands, as well as the hot topic brought by the joint activities, Supreme officially came out of the circle and became more and more popular. Perhaps it was inspired by Supreme, or perhaps because of the lifestyle of the younger generation aimed at by OFF-WHITE, which should have covered more categories.

In 2017, OFF-WHITE and Nike launched a joint series “The Ten”. Virgil Abloh personally used a unique “deconstruction” design and “perspective” design. The so-called “deconstruction” is to separate various elements and then spliced ​​together, “perspective” is to use some translucent materials so that people can see some structures in the shoe through the surface. In addition, unique anti-theft buckles, orange labels and instruction-style text are added to each pair of shoes.

In the end, with the Air Jordan 1 in the “The Ten” series, Virgil Abloh defeated Gianvito Rossi and Ronnie Fieg to win the best sneaker of the year at the 31st Achievement Awards. The OFF-WHITE brand itself also quickly came out of the circle because of this joint name with Nike.

According to the index released by the luxury search engine Lyst, in 2017, 3 of the 20 most popular fashion products came from OFF-WHITE. That was the first time OFF-WHITE surpassed Gucci and Balenciaga as the most popular brand.

It is worth mentioning that the cooperation between OFF-WHITE and Nike also adopted the method of limited sales. This model, which was carried forward by Supreme, was sold in limited quantities and no longer produced after it was sold out, which directly caused a difficult situation. Attracting brand lovers to rush to buy, and selling low-priced goods to sky-high prices in the second-hand market – the wealth effect has successfully attracted more people’s attention and entry.

This time, the death of Virgil Abloh has caused a series of products that are hard to find to be fired again and again.

Since then, OFF-WHITE and Nike have maintained a long-term cooperation. They have not only launched joint clothing in football, track and field, tennis, swimming and other fields, but also invited many sports stars, including tennis star Serena Williams, to be their platform, which is full of topics.

In addition, OFF-WHITE has also cooperated with Nike, IKEA, Rimowa, Vans, Byredo, Kith, Levi’s, Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker, Moncler, Umbro and Sunglass Hut to launch joint models. In addition to increasing the topic, most of the cooperation The relatively affordable price of the series also gave consumers who could not afford the high price of OFF-WHITE an opportunity to buy, which further expanded the influence of OFF-WHITE in the public sector.

After careful inspection, we can see that the OFF-WHITE joint model is basically transformed on the basis of the original product design. In fact, this just confirms the design concept of Virgil Abloh. He once proposed a “3% idea”: change a classic design by 3% and it becomes my work (I was only interested in restraining myself, and only editing it 3 percent.)

Although many people think that the 3% concept is a euphemism for plagiarism, OFF-WHITE is accompanied by the classic designs of these well-known brands, and has gained a group of fans, and has grown into the most popular among young people in just a few years. One of the most popular trending brands.

On November 28, 2021, after fighting the disease for more than two years, Virgil Abloh died of cancer in the United States at the age of 41. The entire trend circle, fashion circle and even the entire African-American black people expressed their condolences, and the OFF-WHITE store also decided to close for one day.


Looking back at the development process of OFF-WHITE, we may be able to get several inspirations:

1. The rise of trendy brands is a process from entering the circle to exiting the circle. The niche in the circle pursues the identity symbol, while the public outside the circle not only takes a fancy to the identity attribute, but also pays attention to the cost performance – price and quality.

2. In the process of entering the circle, it is far more important to get the recognition of the big coffee in the circle than the quality of the product. As long as it is sought after by the big coffee in the circle, even if the logo is printed on the ordinary product, it can be popular in the circle.

3. Product strength is required to get out of the circle. Although the recognition of big coffee in the circle can make the brand popular, but to gain more people’s recognition, it still needs product strength to support it. One of the reasons for recognition. On the contrary, as I mentioned in “Trend: The Secret Behind Brand Detonation and Out of the Circle”, the Anti Social Club, which is also a trendy brand, has not been recognized by the public because of the poor quality of its products.

4. Joint name is an important way to get out of the circle. The reason why OFF-WHITE is out of the circle is due to the co-branding marketing. Co-branding can not only use the influence of other brands to quickly expand the audience, but also create topics and form a larger-scale communication. In addition, the cooperation with some popular brands has also reduced the price, which is beneficial to the public to buy OFF-WHITE.


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