retail watch | Jul 21, 2022 |
Virgil Abloh lives on in home

Virgil Abloh was a rising star in the luxury fashion and design world who seemed to be everywhere and then died suddenly last November. Some might have assumed that his passing marked the end of his career, both as a brand and a creative force. It turns out—like Andy Warhol, the artist Abloh has been most often compared to—that is anything but the case.

New work from Abloh, who burst onto the commercial scene first in fashion, then quickly extended his reach across a variety of categories, continues to show up. The most recent debut is a limited-edition flatware set for Italian homewares producer Alessi, called Occasional Object. The three-piece metal cutlery set features a stark, industrial design and went on sale this week after first being shown at Milan Design Week earlier this year. Offered in a run of just 999 pieces, Alessi describes the set as “deconstructed” take on utensils, “composed of a knife, fork, spoon and carabiner which, by fixing all three elements together, transforms cutlery into a personal accessory.” Alessi—known for working with a wide variety of artists, architects and designers, from Michael Graves to Ettore Sottsass—has priced the set at $650, which as of press time was not sold out yet.

Over the course of Abloh’s short-but-eminent career, he worked with many brands and manufacturers. He was artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear, a key leader within parent company LVMH and its multiple luxury brands, and CEO of his own Off-White fashion and home brand before he died at age 41 of a rare form of cancer, the battle with which he had kept private. In addition to high-end limited-edition home products under the Off-White brand, he did a whimsical collection for Ikea that included a rug reproduction of one of the store’s cash register receipts.

Although often caught up in controversy for designs that mimicked other works, and for his contention that slightly altering an existing product or design made it something entirely new and different, Abloh’s career exploded in the past few years. In addition to his work in the fashion apparel field, he put his touch on luggage, furniture, audio equipment, magazines and record covers.

Since his death, besides this Alessi cutlery collection, Abloh’s work has appeared in a new Mercedes-Benz concept car and several fashion collections for LVMH brands. A new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum about Abloh is currently running through January 2023.

We can’t know how many other products were in the works at the time of his death, and if and when they will come to market. But like Warhol, and more recently the late New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, it’s likely that Abloh designs will become commercial staples far outliving his life span for new generations to appreciate—and purchase.

Homepage photo: Virgil Abloh’s collection for Alessi | Courtesy of Alessi


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

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