On Virgil Abloh: The Death of Streetwear Births A Sellout

Virgil Abloh pulled the Off-White x IKEA “KEEP OFF” rug right out from underneath from under us in a recent interview with Dazed. The Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton menswear overtly proclaimed, “[Streetwear is] gonna die, you know? Like it’s time will be up.” 

Replace his name with anyone else’s declaring the death of streetwear as an Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, and well, you wouldn’t take it. But to have the death of streetwear declared by one of our own? Well, it hurts.

Abloh commodified the culture, and now he’s looking to cash out. His blending of the ethos of street with high couture is complete. Yes, Virgil, do tell us, “[H]ow many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many more sneakers?” Is a lifestyle defined by the conspicuous consumption for the performance of self on social platforms? Streetwear runs deeper than the merch drop and a line on Bowery. It’s innate in the people who connect through it on a human level beyond the logos and symbols. Streetwear lives inside each and everyone of us because it is, in and of itself, a medium of culture.

In a world, where algorithms project taste upon us, isn’t the last thing we need the declaration of the very thing that separates us from an algorithm – the taste of culture? Streetwear is a language that Abloh has deciphered for economic gain to high couture. He trades in the subliminal and ironic to define new categories all rooted in the identity, status, and preference of a culture built on rebelling the mainstream. The atomization of streetwear tastes into luxury products has given Abloh opportunities most of us will never see. While we applaud his success (and have rooted for his elevation of streetwear in the past), we wonder if he has succumbed to his own form of privilege wrapped in an LV-monogrammed canvas. 
Whether it was his intention or not  – Abloh sends a very strong signal to the marketplace with his declaration, specifically to private equity firms that investing in streetwear is potentially fraught as a trend. There is a trickle down effect that will be felt by the smallest players. What streetwear brands will die before they are even born because of Abloh’s declaration? Is creativity dead, too?

Since Abloh asked how many more T-shirts can we own, we’re challenging you to show him. Take back streetwear to where it belongs, not on Fifth Avenue but on you. Yes, You. Every purchase made on the Frank151 website starting Friday will come with a “Streetwear is Not Dead’ T-shirt while supplies last. Check our Instagram for updates. Everyone will love it…Well, not everyone…

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