“One of the greatest inventions of man is bottled water,” states Virgil Abloh, Creative Advisor of Sustainable Innovation Design for Evian since 2018, over a conference call. “It’s an ultra profound concept. You can unravel a simple object and tell the story of humanity.” Humanity is the essence behind the Evian collaboration and Abloh’s design aesthetic. Abloh insists on designing with an acute sense of detail while provoking thoughts around humanity that are practical as well as figurative. 

Evian is on another run of ethical designs for water bottles, previously fabricating a glass bottle design made from recycled plastic by Abloh, for select European markets in September 2020, and the first-ever label-free bottle released in France early in 2020.

Now, to be released in America is a new 100% recycled plastic bottle. Abloh says, “I look at it as a sculpture. A 2.0 intervention onto an already compelling object with a compelling context – water being bottled.”

Water has come a long way, from scraping rivers with tin cups and now bottling water for transport. Evian and Abloh ’s idea of reworking the consumable water bottle, in this case, is also a necessity.  

Modernity is in Abloh’s DNA, seeking to provoke thought that leads to circularity and reinvention. Like his idol, Marcel Duchamp, who famously made art out of existing objects, Abloh creates in the vein of evoking the same conundrums. If it exists, then it should be utilized. Whether a piece of art to provoke thought, or a practical object, like a water bottle, it can be made, and re-made, and exists as new. 

Evian and Abloh have created a 100% recycled plastic water bottle [from rPET]. Archived bottles are methodically designed and re-created from the recyclable polyethylene terephthalate. The hammered effect on the bottle signals a previous life of the container. The indents are a re-fashion of the original Evian bottle. 

The collaboration was developed over a rigorous period – about 2 to 3 years of conceptualizing with Evian – at Abloh’s Black-led design firm, Alaska Alaska, based in London. Abloh envisioned his agency as one that “lends creativity to all realms.” He continues, “what you see is very much from hand-molding to conceptualizing, to rendering, to prototype, to ultimately what you see as the final product.” 

Beyond art, fashion, beauty, and music, for Abloh, the Evian collaboration is purely industrial. The Architecture graduate defines it as a “sensibility of modern design that can be applied to everything.” Abloh indicates that “we have enough information to understand how we as humans affect our earth.” Design is “only being responsible if we take into account new information,” he expresses.

The first of its kind, and it has changed over time, evident in the European release. “Originally, we released a glass bottle – this is the first bottle design from the ground up, and [it] also initiates this move toward a circular approach – a bottle made from a bottle. We can see how modern design can account for its impact on global sustainability.”

Modern living and humanity perpetuate the Evian bottle concept. Abloh affirms, “sustainability is how humans relate to each other. Modernity in [my] studio opens the door to think about sustainability.” This is in his efforts to create room for conscious design, making new from existing material, and for “more black designers, artists, into the creative world.”

Logic and rationale are at the helm of the design process for Abloh. “You can imagine the rigor that I go through to think of a full 2d, 3d model,” he describes. “I do my collections the same. My Louis Vuitton and Off White collections have a sustainability and inclusive arm – a diversity-inclusion arm – embedded in [my] practice.”

A lot of what makes Abloh tick is the stoicism in his design approach. “A conversation with myself, an unwillingness to adhere to a consensus or understanding of what I should do,” he says. Abloh not only disregards the norms, he examines each step in creating an existing object. 

“I can tell you that 99 percent of my career most people didn’t care what I was doing or where I was at – when you come from a background that doesn’t guarantee you’ll participate.” Abloh’s reflection on his journey is why his outreach for inclusion is important. 

“People are reading into my personal journal. [On] every page is some output. It puts a notion out in the world to make it a better, more inclusive place. That’s been my intention since I was a nobody,” says Abloh. 

He has already launched the Post Modern Scholarship Fund. Raised $1 million, with the help of Evian and other partners, Abloh is financing scholarships for students of Black, African American, or African descent. Evian and Virgil Abloh will be working toward a circular future for young designers and artists as well as the consumable plastic industry.  

Abloh shared sentiment with the next generation stating, “I want them to see it so they know that they can do it too. That’s my primary goal. When I was younger I only had Michael Jordan or a skater like Stevie Williams that I looked up to because I can see that printed in a magazine. I didn’t see architects, artists, designers, that were breathing the same air as me, that let me know that I can occupy those spaces too.”

In a covert operation, Abloh leads by example with the Evian bottle project. Giving way for future generations is Abloh’s essence and main-objective. He follows up by stating, “people can get bogged down into the finer details of the output. Realize – the larger picture is what [I’m] doing it for.” 

Abloh continues, “once we open up avenues of design and art, these spaces, when more diverse, are better as a whole. I use my career as an opportunity to open doors and keep doors open. That’s the primary function of the Post Modern Scholarship.”

The Evian bottle collaboration reinforces Abloh’s modern design aesthetic, “practical and figurative,” as he describes. He further explains his view, “In fashion right now, the materials usage and the production of garments is the main factor. We’re reusing dead-stock and post-consumer goods. We are also using old-stock that hasn’t been used before.”

As there are several ways that fashion can be more sustainable, Abloh addresses the concept of sustainability with his fashion collections. “Figuratively, this year, I launched this concept in my collection – not making [items] less valuable because they are older. My work at Louis Vuitton, for example, is all one collection. The newest [items] are not necessarily [more] valuable than the ones before it.”

The concept of sustainability has stretched beyond “recycle, reduce, reuse” into an area of practical solutions for humanity. The 100% recycled plastic bottle [from rPET] is the second round of innovation and creativity for this project. Evian and Abloh are working toward zero plastic waste and generational education that is inclusive and looks at the world with an ethical eye. Whether in fashion design, industrial design, and beyond.

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