food for selfish thought

food for selfish thought:

biased observations that you may not agree with


Originality is a strange concept. The dictionary defines it as the ability to think independently and creatively—a great definition. 

I like to visit the concept of originality through a lens of fashion, one of my healthy obsessions. It happens in fashion like every creative medium—people are ripped off. Other people without creativity (a key part of originality) come in, take someone else'e idea, and run with it. Fast fashion trends are no exception, with companies like H&M and Zara frequently in the fashion news for doing exactly this, blatantly stealing designs. 

original logo hoodie by Thrasher magazine, and H&M ripoff 

original logo hoodie by Thrasher magazine, and H&M ripoff 

Where it starts to get foggy, however, is when you consider the notion of low-level creativity. 

Consider Milan-based fashion label Off-White. Founder and creative director Virgil Abloh has an affinity for, amongst many things, usage of quotations. Everywhere. He has been quoted explaining that he uses them because of their ironic appeal when used literally. For example, in Off-White's recent sneaker collaboration with Nike, he labeled the shoelaces "SHOELACES" directly onto the actual lace.

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Now is when I want to raise the thought: is that original? Well, if we are strictly going by our dictionary definition, I would put it at around 50% on the originality scale. Independent? Absolutely. Virgil began using the quotations when nobody had ever thought to make a branding device out of them. But is it creative? Meh. Sure, there's something novel about branding a shoelace with "SHOELACE" or a men's t-shirt with "MENS" but how much more can he do it? I used to be a fan, until he started putting them everywhere. Now it seems he's just slapping them on anything and declaring it an Off-White project. 

But he's not ripping anyone off. It's all him. That's why originality demands this creativity as part of its definition. Just because you come up with something that's never been done before doesn't mean it's good. And it doesn't mean it is original.  

Wade Burton