On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
In 2019, Virgil Abloh was officially ordered by his doctor to hit pause on his busy schedule. It was August after an overseas trip and the designer slash artistic director slash DJ was feeling more tired than usual. So, he paid a visit to the doctors.
“Everything is fine,” he told Vogue. “But the doctor told me ‘this pace that you’ve sort of pushed your body—to fly all these miles, do all these different projects—is not good for your health.’”
While this meant cancelling a number of high profile appearances for Ikea, Nike and Vogue, it also freed him up for some everyday, domestic pleasures, like dropping his kids off at school. Abloh’s family (his wife Shannon and their two kids: Lowe and Grey) play an important role in providing the designer with a solid foundation for his pursuits.
“I met Shannon early on, but I am the same person now as I was in high school. I like the consistency” he explains. “For me, to chart this course in a creative whirlwind—you need a solid family life, a support system. It would not work if I was distracted.”
In a way, I feel like we’re living through a modern renaissance. With the internet, a new generation of designers have the tools to create something great, and of course we’re comparing our output to that of our idols.virgil abloh’s remixed world | i-D
It wouldn’t be a stretch by any means to give Abloh the title of the busiest man in the fashion industry. As a civil engineering graduate at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Abloh was studying to get his Master of Architecture, when he connected with a rising Kanye West, and it wasn’t long before he was working on creative projects with the music star. “I was like a young intern turned art director,” he told Vogue. “Travelling around the world but always coming back to my day job. I sort of just managed to keep things moving.”
“Kanye wasn’t going to put his art form in the hands of the art department at the record label,” he said in a GQ profile. “So he was like, ‘I am going to hire you, and let’s literally work on this 24–7, laptop in hand, nonstop.’ So more than any title, I was just his assistant creatively.”
Since then, Abloh has ascended in the creative world. Following an internship at Fendi in 2009 alongside West, Abloh has launched Off-White, an Italian luxury fashion label based in Milan, designed furniture for Ikea, worked with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, and was named Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection in 2018.
He’s also collaborated with brands like Evian, Vitra, Champion, Equinox, Jimmy Choo, Sunglass Hut and McDonald’s, and his work has been showcased in museums and galleries around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Galerie Kreo in Paris, Gagosian, the Louvre.
Oh, and he DJs too, hitting up spots in Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Bali, Glasgow and Coachella on the regular.
A 2018 Vogue profile described what a typical day in Abloh’s life looks like:
Virgil Abloh is an exceptionally busy man. On the day we meet for this photo shoot, he has flown in to London directly from an event in New York with Jeff Koons, his luggage – Koons’s Louis Vuitton collaboration – in tow. Before he leaves, less than 20 hours later, he will be mobbed by fans at a magazine signing, receive the 2017 Fashion Award for Urban Luxury and host a sticky-floored afterparty at 180 The Strand. He is leaving town at 7am and heading straight to Miami’s Art Basel, where his itinerary includes launching a T-shirt collaboration with Jenny Holzer, playing seven-a-side with Skepta and performing on stage with Drake. He is nothing if not prolific.Virgil Abloh: The Vogue Interview | Vogue
The bulk of his work is done on the go. Instead of an office with a computer, Abloh operates almost entirely using his phone, with separate WhatsApp groups for each project he’s working on. “It removes you from being plugged in to an ironically corporate desk-like place,” he explained to Mr Porter. “All of a sudden, everywhere is an office. If I have a fully charged phone, I can do anything.”
“I literally have no desk in the world. I work on the street, phone in hand,” he told The New York Times. “I’ve occasionally been stuck at the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets in Manhattan not even realizing I’ve been standing there for 20 minutes responding to messages.”
Fuelled in part by his desire to legitimise his streetwear roots to a historically closed-off fashion industry, as well as by his idol, Michael Jordan (“When you’re watching Jordan, you sort of believe anything’s possible”), Abloh has worked non-stop for over the past decade to reach his goal. But in 2019, he contemplated a slower life on the horizon.
“I’m sort of in this midlife phase where I’m pondering becoming more content sitting on a couch,” he told Vogue. “As a workaholic, that’s the central conundrum. I’m sort of absorbing these milestones in my career, but I’m also welcoming the idea that, yeah, maybe I don’t travel so much; maybe I don’t take on as many projects; maybe I spend more time at home with my kids. Now that I see what my trajectory is, who knows? I might be open to being boring.”
From that perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown came at the right time for Abloh to slow down. In a 2020 interview with Vogue, he described his new daily routine, which involved hanging up new artwork and building a new workspace and recording studio.
“Getting groceries seems more important than buying a new garment that I already have 30 of in a closet. I don’t think of that as a bad thing,” he said. “I’m also trying to find some solitude. You hear about these things: wellness, well-being. Meditating—that’s something I need to learn. I’m relishing the idea of not having to do something all the time, but that’s a trait I have to learn. I’m not wired that way.”
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