Exclusive: Kanye West's Creative Director Is Designing a Line for IKEA
There are usually a couple of announcements at IKEA's annual Democratic Design Days event that put media and décor lovers in a spin, but this year, one collaboration stole the show. The homewares brand shared that it is partnering with Virgil Abloh, trained architect, Kanye West's longtime creative director, and the founder of high-street fashion label Off-White, a favorite among It girls like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.
When Abloh took to the stage to talk about the upcoming décor collaboration, which is due to launch in 2019, squeals and the click-click of iPhone cameras could be heard among the usually quiet and reserved media. But after a brief 10-minute discussion about the need for better small-space and first-apartment solutions—which will be the focus of Abloh's line—we were left with more questions than we started with.
Curious to know what furniture and accessories we can expect from Kanye West's closest confidant, we pulled Alboh aside to find out more. Here's what he told us.
MYDOMAINE: Why have you chosen to focus on first-apartment solutions for your line with IKEA?
VIRGIL ABLOH: My background is architecture and engineering, so all the projects that I do are not just about the design; it's about asking, Why? Who? What need is it solving, and what's the cultural relevance? There's millions of chairs, millions of cups, millions of rugs in the world. I'm only interested in providing ones for people who don't know why they need a better-designed object or why something is cool.
Right now this project is in the early phases, so it's limitless. Of course, there are basics like coffee tables and a couch, but it's an environment. I'm interested in the mass things, like a big rug, but I'm also interested in what makes a space cool and comforting. It could be the smallest ashtray.
I'm interested in what makes a space cool and comforting. It could be the smallest ashtray.
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MD: Will the collection represent your personal décor style, and if so, what is that?
VA: Mine is eclectic. I believe in two different objects being different, and the in-between expresses personality. In fashion, I do a high-low street-meets-refined thing, which to me feels modern. It feels as contradictory as people are. The freedom in the generation of now is that you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to fit in a box of liking modern or ornate. You can be in between.
Of course, as an architect, I'm trying to figure out how impossible it would be to pick a coffee table that [different people] like. The way to get both of your attention in the collection is to do two dissimilar things that don't have to relate to each other.
MD: You've been quoted saying that we're a "post-Tumblr generation" obsessed with replicating a perfect image. Does that influence how millennials decorate?
VA: It's not realistic unless you have [a limitless] budget. You don't remodel your whole environment—that's not how people consume. What I'm more interested in is that statement piece that revitalizes a whole room.
That's what my cultural observation is. That's what the fashion, the music has taught me. Three new pieces and decluttering can give you an apartment that looks like your Tumblr page.
Three new pieces and decluttering can give you an apartment that looks like your Tumblr page.
Some of you guessed it! @virgilabloh @off____white prototyping a fresh take on the FRAKTA bag in IKEA’s very own prototype shop in Älmhult. "We’re in a moment where IKEA is transcending, and people are bringing this “do it yourself” culture” to the blue bag. What I’m most interested in is doing that process in partnership with the brand. It’s allowing me to put my opinion on a classic. It’s unique, and distinctly as much of off-white as it's IKEA". Photo @piotrniepsuj . #IKEAtoday #Collaborationpartner #virgilabloh #offwhite #IKEADDD
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MD: What do you think is missing out there for first apartments?
VA: A huge part of [furniture] icons and design are that you usually have to go to school or meet someone who knows what the difference is between an Eames chair and a folding chair. That's not common knowledge. What I think is more of a disparity is there's nowhere to learn about that. You would only learn about it if it was trendy. So my mission statement is to make it trendy to learn about iconic moments in design.
In this project, I'm looking to my favorite items in design, [like] my first apartment purchase, which was a blue Eames chair. What makes it special is that originally those iconic things weren't put on a pedestal. They were classic and good and are now an icon. What happens if those are made available to someone who is buying their first apartment rather than just an anonymous chair?
MD: What are some of the items we can expect in the collection?
VA: One of the things I'm looking to do is merge things with art. If you had a painting or a sculpture, you would live with it longer than you would furniture. If you take some of those principles from art and apply it to an object, you make it feel special and made by an artist; even though it's mass-produced, you'll keep it for longer. Those are the reference points for the collection.
What's the one item you still love from styling your first apartment?