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In one of the first scenes from Mahfuz Sultan and Chloe Wayne Sultan’s new documentary for Vogue on the legacy of Virgil Abloh—titled simply V, as the designer and polymathic creative was known among his friends—we see one of Abloh’s best friends, the vintage car dealer Arthur Kar, driving a familiar route around Paris. On any given day, Abloh could likely be found in the passenger seat with Kar listening to hip-hop as the two drifted in and out of conversation, or Abloh worked on his phone. “He just wanted to enjoy the music and his time with me,” Kar explains in the film.
When Mahfuz and Chloe first began discussing the possibility of making a film about their late friend, it was the opportunity to offer a window into these more quotidian moments of Abloh’s life that they found most compelling. “Some of it contains easter eggs for folks that knew V, or his community of followers, and one of the things we really wanted to do was evoke his life in Paris,” Chloe explains. “Mahfuz had the idea to seat the camera on the passenger seat where V would sit and we asked Arthur to drive a route that they would often drive together. One of the big questions was: How do we make this person that we all love so much feel present, even in his absence? How can we ask each person to participate in a way that is personal to them, or to their relationship with V?”
To do so, the pair set up shop for two days in the Hôtel Costes—a favorite of Abloh’s that often served as his gravitational center in Paris—in the midst of Paris Fashion Week back in February, inviting a who’s who of Abloh’s collaborators to step into some of his most iconic designs for Off-White (all styled by Vogue’s global contributing fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson) and share memories of their time spent with Abloh in the City of Lights. These included a handful of his favorite models, including Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Alton Mason, and Kendall Jenner; a number of his collaborators at both Off-White and Louis Vuitton, including his music director Benji B and stylist Ib Kamara; and many of those who shared more typically amorphous creative synergy with Abloh, including designer and creative consultant Tremaine Emory, DJ Pedro Cavaliere, and poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal, whose words in tribute to Abloh serves as the film’s powerful conclusion.
“We didn’t initially plan it to be something of this size, but it became increasingly ambitious as it went on,” says Chloe. “Part of that is because people just said the most incredible things about their friend, and we wanted to have it on the record. If anyone cares to watch this in 10 years, we’ve been able to collect some of those amazing testimonials about Virgil’s impact, and what an amazing person he was.” For Mahfuz, the film’s format—each speaker is introduced without any kind of formal description, and in various locations around the hotel—was also a means of paying testament to Abloh’s democratic outlook. “I think that format also kind of freed us from the obligation to be encyclopedic,” he adds. “We couldn’t shoot everyone, of course, so there are many close friends and family that weren’t able to be in it. But we never wanted it to have any kind of hierarchy.”