Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion shows may be enigmatic, but his creative director Virgil Abloh is an open book. Or, rather, an open Instagram.
Abloh frequently cites Instagram as a source of inspiration for his own label, Off-White, which he launched in 2014. “My design team is myself. I look at Instagram all day and travel and text with friends,” he recently told GQ.
And while Abloh gains from Instagram, he also likes to give back. The designer has 554,000 followers on the platform, and he posts frequently — up to a few times per day — and uses his photos as a way to shed light on the the daily ins and outs of life in fashion design. He’ll ask followers for their opinions from the sketch table by, for instance, presenting two fabrics and asking them to choose between the two for an upcoming event, and he recently gave followers a chance to get one of the 400 tickets available to his upcoming fashion show.
We talked to Abloh about how Instagram has opened up a new way to network with fellow designers, has taken the guesswork out of making connections, and why he doesn’t participate in the comments.
How do you engage your followers on Instagram?
My approach is to make the creative industry inclusive, not exclusive.
What’s your primary use of the platform when it comes to connecting with hopeful designers?
I follow nearly 4,000 people. I’m constantly on the platform looking at other people’s forms of expression. I often reach out to people for collaborations of all types. It’s a modern way to network.
Can you describe how you use the platform to give behind the scenes looks at your design process to followers?
I enjoy showing the process. Shifting the veil of creative secrecy feels new. [It’s] more open source, and it’s educational to encourage fashion and the creative industry as a whole to be more progressive.
I just invited my 500k followers to my fashion show, kids that typically don’t receive invites. There are 400 seats available, but pressure breaks pipes. Fashion has needed an update. Instagram is helping me do exactly that.
Do you respond to your commenters?
I rarely respond to commenters. I look at my Instagram a little retrospectively. I perceive it as a print magazine, something that I edit that lives on a modern platform.
Do you think Instagram is a good place for communities of up and coming creatives to seek out advice?
Instagram is innovative because it’s an even platform for newcomers and seasoned professionals to live. It’s great because before the platform those levels of hierarchy were nearly impossible to close the gap.
Before Instagram, what was a similar place to get this kind of inspiration and connection to people in your field?
Before Instagram it was all about guessing email addresses. One hundred percent chance.