AMO Designs a Paris Flagship for Virgil Abloh’s Off-White

The streetwear brand’s latest shop bridges high and low in a bid to create a retail experience for a new generation of fashion fans.

01 Off White Paris Copyright Benoit Florencon
Visitors enter the AMO-designed Off-White store in Paris through a wavy glass portico.Courtesy Benoit Florençon

Located in a 19th century building near Paris’s Place Vendôme, the newest flagship store of Virgil Abloh’s brand Off-White is a collaboration between the multi-hyphenate designer and AMO. With numerous oblique references to the city of light, AMO, the research arm of OMA, strove to incorporate the worlds of streetwear and high fashion into a retail environment that’s more than a place to buy clothes.

The project was led by Ellen van Loon, partner at OMA; Samir Bantal, director of AMO; and Giulio Margheri, architect at OMA, and builds on a relationship with Abloh that goes back to 2018, when AMO helped design Abloh’s exhibition Figures of Speech at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. That project led to AMO designing a Miami store for Off-White, and then a Paris outpost. A deep passion for design and a similar set of pop-cultural references mark the ongoing collaboration between AMO and Abloh, says Bantal who has worked closely with Abloh on all three projects.

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As indicated by their names, the store’s three environments are an homage to the city. The courtyard motif is reinforced by travertine walls and a series of arches that recall the porticos of the Rue de Castiglione outside. Courtesy Benoit Florençon

For the Paris store, he cites the groundbreaking boutique Colette as a clear example of the atmosphere they were hoping to recreate. “The Colette store was almost a much more informal form of a cultural institute. It was the place where every hip hop artist, skate artist, graffiti artist would go to in Paris.” To that end, the Off-White store, which is located a few blocks from where Colette stood until 2007, would have to be multifunctional and give physical form to the digital environments where Abloh and Off-White have built such enthusiasm.

Bantal points out that Off-White clientele are better described as a following than as customers in the traditional sense. The challenge, then, was how to engage them—Bantal looked to Abloh’s life for inspiration. “[His fans] know him as a DJ, as an artist, as a fashion designer, as Louis Vuitton, as the guy that used to work with Kanye for 13 years. So how do you grasp all of that and those multiple kind of identities in a store? The idea there was to make the store transformable,” he explains.

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The “gift shop” on the mezzanine is apparently so named because of its exhibition wall and low ceilings. Courtesy Benoit Florençon

The shop itself is a three-story affair: A ground floor “courtyard,” which displays the women’s collection and will also host larger events like fashion shows; a second floor “gift shop,” where visitors can find home goods and clothes for very hip kids; and a “flea market” on the upper floor, which houses the men’s collection and can be used for more intimate events like concerts and small parties.

Bantal reports that the energy from opening weekend in early July shows promise for a retail store that’s hoping to create some of the Colette magic in the digital age. “The whole ground floor was a kind of mini club, almost like the boiler room type of experience where the audience was outside listening in while they could see the DJ perform. The whole street was taken over by young skateboarders, doing wheelies and whatever, while listening to what was happening inside the store.”

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