In 2020, Virgil Abloh and his Off-White team began working on a custom commission for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The idea, says Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute Andrew Bolton, was for Abloh’s piece to sit on the second floor of “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” as part of a tableaux about “the brutality of cotton production” and the fabric’s crucial position as a staple of American style. When the show’s layout changed due to logistics, Abloh’s gown was taken out of the “Anthology” curation.
Now, thanks to a mid-year refresh of the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibition, Bolton is able to give Abloh’s piece a central, new home. But the museum team got a surprise: At Off-White’s fall 2022 runway show in Paris, a celebration of Abloh’s legacy after his passing in November 2021, supermodel Debra Shaw wore another version of the piece The Met commissioned to close the show.
“It is so beautiful,” says assistant curator Amanda Garfinkel, who worked closely with Bolton on the exhibition’s initial layout and its new one, which includes nearly 70 new pieces. “Virgil’s influence was cotton and the production of cotton, and we saw some of his inspiration images, from historic and contemporary production and distribution of cotton—you know, giant bales where the fabric is packaged together. I think you can see how that inspiration translates to the very voluminous skirt, but he’s also incorporated the recognizable Off-White vocabulary: the twist over the bosom and ease of the t-shirt. The piece works really well.”