“This is my first time designing something invisible,” says Virgil Abloh. From Air Jordans to cultish black-on-black sunnies, it feels like everything the Off-White designer—who is fresh off showing his Fall 2018 collection last night in Paris—does captures the public imagination. And his latest collaboration with Byredo’s Ben Gorham, which finds him dipping a toe into the beauty world by way of fragrance, is no exception. As much was clear outside the unveiling of the duo’s Off-White x Byredo “Elevator Music” installation in the City of Light tonight, where a stylish mob swiftly formed outside the gallery venue.
To transport their collaboration into the realm of art, Abloh and Gorham designed the capsule collection—which also includes crisp denim, graphic black T-shirts, and top-handle bags with a binder-clip detail—and its idiosyncratic experience with help from German artist Carsten Höller, who reimagined his 2004 work “The Elevator,” complete with LED-screen displays and industrial pipe shelves.
For that, insists Abloh, fragrance was the natural jumping-off point. “Since I was a teenager, I’ve been inspired by fragrance,” says the self-proclaimed “brand junkie,” citing cultural touchstones Chanel No. 5 and Cool Water cologne, which Snoop Dogg name-checked on his landmark debut album Doggystyle, as examples. “It wasn’t just what a fragrance smelled like, but the halo around it.”
Arriving as the scent equivalent of, say, Brian Eno’s ambient melodies, Elevator Music contains notes of sweet-but-not-too-sweet midnight violet and earthy bamboo that mingle serenely with musky ambrette and woody floral amirs. Both Abloh and Gorham were adamant about making the olfactory experience a deftly understated one. “It’s a fragrance for the background, as opposed to the foreground,” explains Gorham, who compares its unobtrusive simplicity to, well, the very music for which it was named. Offered in 100-milliliter eau de cologne form ($275), as well as Hair Perfume ($75) and Hand Cream ($45), it does exactly what it sets out to do: adds a restrained dose of splendor to one’s—admittedly curated—everyday.
The Off-White x Byredo Collaboration will be available May 2018.
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