In April, Henrik Most (Ikea’s creative lead) took to YouTube to livestream the design themes informing Ikea’s latest homeware collection, titled "MARKERAD." He happened to be stood next to Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, the multitasking force who has successfully conquered the modern streetwear phenomenon.
But, Abloh’s collaboration with the world’s largest furniture retailer can be taken at more than just face value. In terms of cultural influence, we’re firmly within the Off-White era, and I imagine we will be for quite some time.
The five-year fashion house has a fanbase that more established companies can only dream of, and it is just one way for Virgil Abloh to leave his influential mark the creative world. He directs the Milan-based fashion brand, collaborates with Kanye West and records for music label Bromance. Being the first African-American creative lead at Louis Vuitton Menswear, he also has game-changing Nike and Converse collabs on his repertoire.
Speaking to Naomi Campbell in June, Abloh confessed, "I did not think I could be a designer with a capital D, because no one looked like me."
His unlikely influence has come a long way since he met Kanye in 2002, and Abloh is the interface between a neglected black American youth striving to express itself via the design industry, whether it be fashion, art, architecture, interior or style itself. Through this collaboration, Ikea are fully legitimising themselves in millennial culture and subcultures.
The collection itself.
With an MA in Architecture, Abloh is no stranger to furniture design. His first furniture collection entitled Framing was a logical continuation of the Off-White thought process. But irregardless of his past experience he has noted the difficulty of this Ikea project. "The essence of the project is not just us designing something cool for cool's sake," said Abloh. "I'm trying to invest an artistic quality in things that you already have.”
Aimed at students and people moving into their first homes, the Ikea x Off-White collection includes slogan-covered rugs, doorstop-integrated chairs and a cabinet for storing and displaying coveted shoe collections. But amidst this fresh modernity, Ikea are maintaining their classic, functional design. This is Abloh interacting with a world has ‘already been lived in’ and re-translating it in his own, unique way.
Readily available products, priced at a means that people can participate, the market has to exist. He is designing for generation rent, ‘born with new information and communication technologies.’ However, this does lead to the one question being asked right across the press: is this a genuine appeal on Ikea’s behalf or simply a marketing ploy?
Irregardless, Virgil Abloh’s creativity has no bounds. It has prompted his move from fashion into the realm of furniture design.