Virgil Abloh’s fervent fans awaited his first NYDJ collection

Tension was palpable as thousands of worshipers queued up to meet Virgil Abloh — the newest Off-White designer — as he made his “It Gets Better” video as if he were Jesus.

At six o’clock sharp on Sunday evening, the first guests trickled into the ground floor of the NYDJ at Off-White store in New York. Dressed in white shirts and black jeans, they faced tickets for reserved seats. As some pored over seats located where portraits of famous people stood, others looked through a rope to look at the crowd moving toward the entrance. The house was packed. By 7 o’clock, a crowd of black-clad revellers formed a human-chain at the doorway and stamped metal staircases at the edges.

They were about to get a taste of Mr. Abloh’s first ever runway show, a surprise appearance earlier in the day. His relaxed monochromatic set helped keep their curiosity sparked. Among the throng were dozens of revellers wearing “THE GUY”s, like Mr. Abloh, and ATO1s, the one that the Harvard Graduate School of Design is offering for rent.

Mr. Abloh is both revered and criticized for his unwavering, constant presence. When he is not in an avant-garde show in Rome or an eye-catching magazine shoot in Ibiza, he is busy working for men’s fashion giants.

His Wikipedia entry refers to him as “Bobo,” a play on “diablo” and a conceptual reference to his biggest fan base — fine art snobs. He is also expected to make the move to women’s fashion later this year.

With his name on the label’s tag, Mr. Abloh’s guest list is usually awash with either luxury corporate attendees — such as Gucci founder Frida Giannini, Prada board member Renzo Rosso, Hedi Slimane — or hip hop’s world powers. A selection of pictures published on his Instagram account show him hanging out with the likes of Travis Scott, Macklemore, and Diddy, all of whom Mr. Abloh photographed for Vogue.

The designer’s debut runway show, held inside a converted loft space in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood, features an orange-tiled stage. The presentation marks the launch of six separate pieces from his recently revealed Private 1 take on Off-White. These plays on “by” and “for” include trousers and sweaters with hinges at the neck; a vest and skirt that double as bomber jackets; and waterproof tights that feature “Footplate,” a the name of Mr. Abloh’s eponymous CD. At the heart of the collection, meanwhile, are a pair of sweatshirts with a script that reads: “I Survived Off-White.”

Yet, the entire collection is not just about the fun new clothes. Although the presentation is not strictly a runway show, visitors can watch an unedited version of the “It Gets Better” video during the show, starting at 6:15 p.m. Afterward, in a separate room on the same floor, their audience is invited to participate in a discussion with Mr. Abloh about the making of the video.

For some, a visit to the Off-White at NYDJ store will be the first taste of what Mr. Abloh has planned for the coming months. But many were not deterred by the big turnout and turned up even earlier than the expected launch time.

Given how the designer’s new work has resonated with people across the world, it may take more than the occasional free T-shirt and hoodie to get them to join the wait list.

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