In the end, though his curriculum vitae spanned fashion, art, architecture and music, what he will be remembered for most, perhaps, is his refusal to be cornered by any one of these categories. By blending universes and smudging the creative canvas, he became a bridge between hypebeasts and these gilded industries: the ultimate multi-hyphenate, Virgil took on disparate fields under the assumption that all visual realms could be bettered with clear vision and intention. In 2018, Virgil Abloh penned a set of strategic hacks that, if followed, he believed could help lead us down untold creative pathways. In ode to the late fashion trailblazer’s genius, and his own journey across geographies both real and virtual, we asked four collectives touched by Abloh’s vision to pick a code from the pack – and tell us what it means to them.
Similar to Brian Eno, who devised his own strategies to spark brainwaves to break creative blocks (some of which were distilled into his 1975 card game, Oblique Strategies), Virgil lived by cheat codes. He first shared these at Harvard during an OFF-CAMPUS workshop in 2017, and the following year they were included in a book entitled Insert Complicated Title Here, published by the university’s School of Design. He laid out 10 commandments for the next generation of visionaries as easy-to-follow advice he would have wanted to hear as a student, from a self-enforced editing process called the ‘three per cent rule’ to a philosophy he dubbed ‘Readymade’, the notion that nothing is new and everything’s a remix – life as a DJ set. “I wish that[...] one person would have given me one ounce of advice that wasn’t: the rest of your career will be an uphill battle,” he once said. “But instead: There are all these shortcuts that you can take.”
In conflating creativity with brick-building, he saw his art as the result of a wonderful process of collaboration. In his ability to find like minds across the globe, to reject geography, time zones and the physical and embrace the magic of the cloud, he kick-started fledgling careers, platformed intersectional conversations daily, and forged untrodden paths. Here, four Virgil-affiliated collaborators and creative collectives pick a cheat code from his set and explore how these rules and practices helped them find their own way forward.