One of the many options for furniture design in the last 15 years is that of limited editions. Products that are already in the catalog, reissued in special versions in a few copies, or new products designed by celebrities or personalities from other fields. Or again, new products designed by archistars in a few pieces: all of these are occasions to involve an alternative public to the regular buyer of furniture, with a foray into art and fashion.
The social networks dedicated to images, which until a few years ago were primarily interested in fashion, are now extending their influence to the furniture/design sector. Figures such as Virgil Abloh come from there. A Millennial from Rockford, Illinois, art director of Louis Vuitton, founder of the luxury streetwear brand Off White, an all-around creative who, in his short life, collaborated also with Vitra, Ikea, and Braun.
Who is Virgil Abloh
Born in the United States in 1980, and sadly passed away in 2021 at just 41, Virgil Abloh was an engineer and architect, and later also a fashion designer, an entrepreneur and a designer. More than a stylist, he was an entrepreneur-creative, who, after working with Kanye West, opened a concept store in Chicago – RSVP Gallery -, then continued with his fashion label, Off-White, and, from 2018, was artistic director of Louis Vuitton Men’s Collection.
Virgil Abloh, of course, counts 4.5 million followers on Instagram, and designed Hailey Bieber’s wedding dress. It would seem the furthest thing from a style icon for a product like Vitra’s or a democratic one like Ikea’s. But apparently it does not.
The Prouvé collection for Vitra, re-interpreted
On the occasion of DesignMiami Basel 2019, Virgil Abloh designed a special installation at Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station, at Vitra Campus. The exhibition Twentythirtyfive tried to imagine what the home of today’s teenagers could look like in 2035. Abloh furnished the imaginary house with products by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Arnio and Jean Prouvé, some of which were original, others reinterpreted in his version.
The designer redesigned the Petite Potence lamp and the Anthony chair by Jean Prouvé in a limited edition. All the pieces of this collection, included the brick that completed it, have been sold.
Abloh pointed out that this exhibition had been an opportunity to bring Jean Prouvé’s projects closer to a younger audience, probably often lacking in knowledge on this subject. His, therefore, could be defined as a ‘messenger’ function, of someone who conveys the value of historical design to the younger generations.
The Markerad collection for Ikea
In addition to his work for Vitra, a company known for its research and endless portfolio of historical design icons, Virgil Abloh developed a limited-edition collection for Ikea. Two extremely different collaborations, aimed at an equally different audience.
The Markerad collection, a limited edition by Ikea, includes a few pieces of furniture and different accessories and complements, 15 pieces in total. Ikea planned the sale of these limited edition products for limited periods, in November 2019 (each country had different dates). The goal was clearly to reach a transversal audience, trying to personalize their home but without spending a fortune.
The Markerad collection was on sale in Milan and Rome, at Ikea stores, from November 1st, or online, from November 11.
Later, Virgil Abloh also collaborated with Braun, revamping some historic products. Abloh examined and explored the original concept design of Wandanlage, the 1961 stereo system, adapted for modern technology.
On the other hand, with Off-White, his fashion brand, he edited a limited edition of the BC02 alarm clock, designed by Dieter Rams in the late 1980s.
The question that pops up is: would the operations linked to Vitra, Ikea, and Braun have taken place without the social networks? Given that Virgil Abloh is first and foremost an architect, designer, and fashion designer, how much did his presence on social networks influence the choice? (Roberta Mutti)