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Why Virgil Abloh’s “terrible” Mercedes-Benz collaboration is actually a big deal



Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Virgil Abloh is one of the preeminent cultural flavor makers of the 21st century.

The influence of the American designer, entrepreneur, DJ, creative director of Louis Vuitton, founder of Off-White and compatriot of Kanye West is deeply rooted in modern popular culture. Its signature deconstructed style and highly industrial aesthetic – one of the most iconic design languages ​​of the 21st century – has manifested itself in clothing, accessories, furniture, artwork, music, and even bottled water. Abloh is productive and has more collaborations than any other artist active today.

However, he is a divisive figure. Legions of hypebeasts worship him like a god, his shoe collaborations with Nike and his collections with LV enjoy unprecedented success. Others view his minimalist design language ̵

1; and his self-imposed rule of “only changing something by 3%” – as inferred, overrated, unimaginative or simple plagiarism.

Abloh’s recent work has led him to team up with Mercedes-Benz chief designer Gorden Wagener on a unique edition of the G63 (also known as the “G-Wagen”) they have dubbed the “Off-Road Vehicle Project”: A concept design project that is about “studying what luxury could be like 100 years from now,” the couple said.

The two turned the SUV into some sort of postmodern racing car with an incongruous, box-shaped body kit. NASCAR tires, window net, and roll cage; a stripped-down interior and a partially sanded paintwork. It is somewhat reminiscent of the works of American artist colleague Tom Sachs. But that would do Sachs a disservice because we – like many others on the Internet – find this “art car” absurdly ugly.

But what we think is irrelevant.

Ted Gushue – photographer, respected auto journalist, and founder of Type7 – refers to the fact that the off-road vehicle project is not intended for car enthusiasts or adults. Indeed, it is a smart move by Mercedes to appeal to a younger generation of consumers.

“The collaboration between Virgil Abloh and Mercedes-Benz is not for me and not for many of you,” says Gushue.

“But it’s about acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ to have a whole generation of children who live in cities, who never think about cars or car design, who are interested and engaged.”

“The auto industry has a big problem on the immediate horizon for the next 20 years as we increasingly turn to a society without cars. Children who are staring at a red brick that has Supreme written on it need to start pouring their energies into car design and culture. If not, we’ll be fucked. “

In this way, the off-road vehicle project is a stroke of genius.

Abloh’s influence on so many aspects of popular culture is difficult to exaggerate. His co-sign practically guarantees success … or at least eyeballs. Hell, we’re writing about it, so Mercedes’s strategy clearly works. People who weren’t interested in cars before will now pay attention thanks to Virgil’s ‘Midas Touch’. Conversely, there will be another subgroup of people who are not interested in art / design /. Haute couture Thanks to this collaboration, that will be the name of Googeln Abloh.

As the first African American to lead the creative direction of a French luxury brand and climb to the top of the modern art world in just a few years, Abloh’s journey and creativity inspire. Consumers of all origins, who have never seen themselves to exist in the same universe as, for example, German luxury cars, now have a rolling memorial for their future.

Auto or art purists may make fun of the Off-Road Vehicle project, but there is no doubt that its legacy will be heavily felt in the years to come.

Abloh isn’t the only trendsetter to have worked on a luxury vehicle like this one. The NYC-based artist Daniel Arsham, who also worked with Adidas, Christian Dior and Nintendo, worked with Porsche on the “Porsche 3019”: a fully drivable 992 coupé with stone body parts with Arsham’s characteristic “eroded” crystal artwork.

That said, Abloh’s cultural cache expands Arshams far.

Two Project SUV vehicles have been made: a supposedly working full-size version and a 1/3 scale version to be auctioned at Sotheby’s to support Virgil Abloh’s “Post-Modern” scholarship fund for black art students. It’s an easy bet it’ll make a pretty penny if it goes under the hammer.

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