The first time I met Virgil Abloh was at a show for the whirlwind known as Kanye West, so I won’t even call that a real meeting because it was quick and it was really a passing in the night. But the second time I met Virgil—this was pre-Vuitton, during his Off-White days—it was a great meeting.
It was in Paris, and I remember seeing him for the first time. I had gone up to him wanting to say that I was a big fan, but before I could, Virgil said to me that he was a big fan, and so it was a mutual affection between the both of us. I thought that was such a sweet, generous and kind way to meet someone that I admired as an artist for so long.
What Virgil has done in the fashion world is really not just to break the rules—we tend to use the monikers “game changers” and “rule breakers” a lot for fashion creatives, and certainly, he was all of those things. But what he’s done is to actually shift the conversation mid-speech, and in an industry that has been so much about what’s new and what’s next—and that Virgil can absolutely rewrite the script on that—that is truly game changing.
When I look back at his artistry and his legacy, what I remember most will be the fact that he didn’t play by any rules. There was no rulebook. I think that what was interesting was that if you actually spoke to him, as cool as he was, and as street as he was, he also really loved and embraced pop culture. He really loved and embraced mass aesthetics. You saw a lot of that in his collaborations: whether it was with Ikea or Evian. He always loved that idea of being able to appeal to a lot of people.
I know there are so many stories of people saying that when they saw Virgil on the street, they would stop him, and he would always take the time to speak to people, sign sneakers, take pictures, and he embodied that idea of what being cool was. Cool wasn’t about being standoffish for him, cool wasn’t about being fringe, cool wasn’t about being inaccessible.
I think what was so great about Virgil was that he was so approachable. He was so kind, he was so interesting, and he was so incredibly curious about everything. In all of my conversations with Virgil, he was always as curious about me as I was about him. Not just about the creative process or the work that we were doing, or any of the artistic things that we wanted to do within the industry. What I loved about Virgil was that he was genuinely interested in you. He wanted to know what was happening with you, your life, what was going on in that day. That was such a rarity in the fashion world, when everybody can be so much about what was on the surface—he was so much about what was beneath it.