What happens when American Designer, DJ and stylist Virgil Abloh and Creative Director of Jimmy Choo Sandra Choi collaborate? The catchphrase “cool” is redefined with personality and oomph! Making waves and shaking the fashion industry to think outside the boundaries of what is already defined and setting a new phenomenon of fashion exploration, this event sure did bring every major model and celebrity to the intimate dinner celebrating the new Off-White x Jimmy Choo collaboration, dressed in Off-White glamour paired with unexpected footwear and plastic-y boots.
A coincidental meet with Sandra in September 2016 in New York where Virgil was DJing for Jimmy Choo’s 20th anniversary event, instantly sparked a desire to create something new. Virgil: When we first met I did a scan cataloguing the brands she was wearing. Well, our brains are so astute. If you have synergy, it’s like, “What’s your taste? How do you finish a sentence?” Sandra: He’s a connoisseur in fashion! I was impressed by his fashion intuition, he instantly identified my plain cotton t-shirt as Comme des Garcons, this is when we started to talk about working together on a collaboration. I have so enjoyed Virgil saying, “I want the unexpected.”
Together they decided to make something both figurative and luxury. A collaboration that still has the identity of both the brands, and that was the key element.
Sandra: I want to surprise people. Make them ask “What kind of effusion, ultimate product are we going to come up with. Historically, Jimmy Choo has had very strong brand values; the glamour, the confidence. Off-White™ is unpredictable. This collaboration is unpredictable and exciting. Virgil: Who’s going to be our next Margiela? Who’s going to be the next Lagerfeld?” I was sitting in this chair and said, “Alright, I have to get up and make it.” There’s a generational need for designers to come up with a premise that’s actually valuable and surprising. I wanted the new it-heel. The major move in my career is to catalogue what’s happening on the street and, hopefully, be given a position to do it within a house. Jimmy Choo is THE House of Shoes.
Virgil believes his contribution is, in a weird way, to be sort of punk but corporate at the same time, a refined aesthetic that’s sort of avant-garde; to make sure everything is beautiful, making sure the fine line between weird and beautiful is married seamlessly, and the designer thinks this is perfectly executed in the Off-White™ C/O Jimmy Choo pieces.
Sandra: We took risks on this collection. Like I said to Virgil, it reminded me of every single thing that is iconic for Jimmy Choo, but with a fresh attitude.
Virgil: Yes. We want to make something that doesn’t exist. Purely making Power more powerful.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DIANA SPECIFICALLY
Virgil: I liked the idea of Diana as a muse. The point to this collection was to tell a story that an impactful figure like her is our living version of Cinderella. Make a shoe that gives that Princess feeling. “The New Glass Slipper”.
When asked why Diana was considered culturally so relevant to a generation that wouldn’t even have been born or been children when she was around, both Virgil and Sandra agreed that Diana was and is still a role model and the whole premise of Off-White™ is asking the question “Who’s the new woman?”. The fact that now, there’s a new powerful independent woman that has a style. That she can wear jeans, not have to wear a suit that was made for a man. She is an individual that you can’t classify. And Princess Diana is relevant explicitly now because she was ahead of her time. Clothing is your outward expression of what’s happening. So whatever facade that Diana lived in, she revealed through her clothing. Diana was a royal grounded in reality. She was real, not a fairytale.
Diana has gained a considerable and impactful popularity amongst millennials. This is a tribute to Diana. It’s a celebration of her essence and style. In the same collection, there is a storytelling to a modern generation that doesn’t know and wasn’t there. Her charity work is also involved in the show. This collection is a modern version of all that Diana was and still is. There was a woman who was strong, powerful. Here’s fashion paying tribute to someone legendary. A collaboration to show that fairy tales can exist, that’s what Virgil said his role was, to make a shoe that inspires feeling, the plastic represents a modern day Cinderella pump, because that’s what it looks like in a realistic way.
And that’s how Diana became the muse.
Sandra: “Diana was naturally tall and she was really careful on how much height she wanted to wear for each occasion. In the early days, I remember her heels would be lower. As time went on she went a bit higher and higher to three and a half inches so in some sense, she was using the way that she dressed to actually communicate with the outside world.”
On summing up what this collection is for people that would wear it today, Virgil says, “It’s A to Z. It’s a live-picture. Well, the most in vogue thing used to be day to night. That was the older generation as I was coming into fashion. For me, it’s for real people. It’s like, “Hey what can you wear from the gym to going to a fancy dinner?” There are no boundaries.
Not shying away from defining who is the OFF-WHITE™ C/O JIMMY CHOO woman, according to Virgil: “They embody the confidence to respect their own style. They don’t necessarily go with trend and fashion. They go with their own style”. Mentioning Beyoncé and Sarah Jessica Parker as well, not before he talks passionately about Prince Diana, for the confidence behind the personalities.
Sandra: “The confidence to be themselves”.
Virgil: On the street, the average girl going to work at her job. If she can find something that matches her confidence, that’s what fashion is. I think giving people products that enable them to show their true personality is my gift.
Fans and admirers of both brands will not be surprised by the influence of technology in this collaboration. Virgil informs us that most of the designing, inspiration, marking, reworking, redrawing and the array of throwing and bouncing ideas back and forth happened over WhatsApp, yup! Most of the design process was done, literally, across the globe, over different time zones.
Virgil: It’s not like the glory days of fashion, I think when you’re sitting in a room with an espresso and you have infinite time. My main motivation is that you use the phone as your new studio. It’s your camera, your network, your emails, your contact, your everything. Steve Jobs was like, “Hey I have a vision,” and their ethos for making product was humanity. It’s like every idea should sort of empower someone to be more creative.
Shoe lovers behold!
There’s The Lady Shoe, a shoe of the past reinterpreted in a modern way with a surprising twist; Victoria, with obvious references to tiaras (the work-in-progress name was TIARA), bringing the disappearing aura of the tiara to modern days.
Then there is the Anne, the most famous, representing something old & new, telling the story through the height, the heel shape alone speaks to a certain moment in time, can also be conservative at the same time; Claire, fragile, changing the aura of a room, extremely provocative, not something you’d see every day, but made with taste.
And then Sara, and like Virgil says, “you could walk on the Moon in those boots”, Sandra confirming a very specific padding resembling ski styles and warmth; casual and still sexy, the right kind of sexy; Mary a lady-like silhouette, focusing on the essence of celebrating the beautiful Choo and only the shoe, it’s a bow, exaggerated, preppy and extraordinary.
Rethinking the elements of comfort and style, this collaboration surely embraces the street more now in the design.
Sandra: Well, the street is there. You can’t ignore it for sure. You know what Jimmy Choo is, the glamour, the confidence, that high heel. But the story has evolved with the Jimmy Choo woman wanting and needing more choices but founded on the same principles of quality, design and confidence. I like to give her choices. This project has allowed us to play with our core DNA in ways that are authentic yet surprising, that provokes people to think, “Oh, they’re doing something different. That’s really interesting.” And I believe in experimenting when it is built on authenticity, it brings freshness and energy to the collection.