How Trailblazing Sportswear Designer Virgil Abloh Took a ‘3 Percent Rule’ to Transform Luxury Athletic Wear

If Virgil Abloh were a noun, his name would be ubiquity. The 41-year-old designer passed away yesterday, leaving an indelible mark on the world of athletic luxury.

Abloh fell victim to a battle with a rare form of cancer that he had been dealing with silently for two years.

Architected Design Influence

By way of Chicago, Illinois, the Ghanaian-American weaved his brand into the fabric of luxury culture, evolving the way athletes, entertainers, and the world viewed the boundaries of fashion.

After aligning with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West and transitioning from an architectural career, the two began an internship with Fendi in 2009 and moved to Rome.

In under ten years from that moment, Abloh would become the artistic director of the men’s division of Louis Vuitton for luxury powerhouse LVMH. He also launched his luxury athletic leisure line, Off-White, which created subtle creative staples like quotation statements on items and colorful zip ties gaudily embellishing his garments and sneakers.

The Transformative Artist
However, Abloh’s collaborations with Nike would transform the modern athletic apparel game as we know it. Abloh had a mantra, the 3 percent rule, where he would take a pre-existing design and tweak it a mere 3 percent for an explosively transformative effect.

With Nike, an iconic muse in the Air Jordan became a perfect canvas.

“Nike is progressive. They easily could have been like, ‘Don’t do this. You can’t have the heel counter exposed — that needs to be covered.’ Instead, they said, ‘We did a collaboration to find new space,’” Abloh told FN in 2017 about his rendition of the iconic Air Jordan 1 silhouette.

“Air” Jordan
Abloh previewed his take on the Air Jordan 1 at the 2017 Met Gala. As a result, he officially converted the sneaker and its cult of followers into instant Abloh lifestyle adherents.

To see what more entertainers and celebrities have to say about the groundbreaking life of Virgil Abloh, click here.

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