Expanding the Universe With Pure Creativity

Expanding the Universe With Pure Creativity

Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh™ “TOY” ushers in Abloh's upcoming MOTU collections (yes, plural) developed in early 2021.

Nostalgia Becomes Now-Stalgia

All creative forces draw inspiration and influence from somewhere, and often that originates in play. It might be in the gleam of chrome on a Hot Wheels die-cast, the fangs-behind-a-smile in a Monster High yearbook, or navigating time and space riding a giant cat to do battle with evil.

For young Virgil Abloh growing up in Rockford, Illinois immersed in skating, hip-hop, and '80s-'90s youth culture... one rung on his creative ladder was the latter. It was in this wayback that Abloh developed an instinctive sense of wonder, and his skills for highlighting culture-driving hotness began to progress.

Born Creative

Mission #1 at Mattel Creations is to build a community of fans, creators, and collaborators. We give emerging talent and iconic artists a platform to play with—and share the results with you.

Our respect for and relationship with Virgil Abloh has spanned several projects, and his omnivorous, prolific output and drive to make meaningful things put us in a shared place of purpose.

Which is why these latest projects—Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh™ “TOY”, followed by a second drop, Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh™ “ART”, are so special.

A cultural innovator, Abloh merged streetwear and fashion in an unprecedented way, opening them up and endlessly combining his interests in the worlds of art, architecture, engineering, design, music, and more.

At his essence: a desire to provoke new creatives to take hold of inspiration, hack it, reinvent it, and make it theirs. The man's revelation: we're experiencing a creative renaissance, where everyone has the power within to create art and transmit it out immediately.

All it takes, he reasoned, "is to reclaim that sense of wonder; to stop using your mind and start using your imagination." To accelerate the process—put in the grind required to get good, remain fearless about failure and embrace the notion that we are all work-in-process.

The ultimate artistic reward is developing the confidence to trust your intuitions.

Playing With Power

Working with the Mattel Creations team, these MOTU collections began under Virgil's direction in early 2021, where he laid the framework and concept for this collaboration. After his passing, Virgil Abloh Securities—the company started by Abloh, now dedicated to spreading his ethos and essence globally—helped continue his plans and teachings forward.

The final touches were actualized by Abloh's founded interdisciplinary design studio based in London, Alaska.

In interviews at the onset of the project, Abloh set the stage:

"For me as someone who's 40 years old, to someone that is younger, I ask what is that thing that is completely out of their frame of mind that could come swinging back in? The He-Man property is one of the different prisms this idea is coming from..."

To launch the new Off-White website, he envisioned another application: the look was "high-end fashion, refined, chic..." he explains. "To offset that, what I wanted to do in website photography was pair up things like a chic handbag with a He-Man character right next to it." Juxtapositions and contrast are another recurring theme Abloh's work embodies; there is energy shared between opposites.

And in September of 2022, Off-White launched "PAPERWORK" Beauty Boxes designed as kits for self-care and self-expression, which each kit containing a hidden MOTU figure.

"For the cosmetics ["PAPERWORK" Beauty Boxes] campaign, imagine if the product came with a toy, like a Kid's Meal," is how Abloh describes the vision. The toy in this kit is presented as a novelty, "But with an artistic take. The child-parent relationship is such a strong bond. The He-Man characters are such nostalgic property to do this."

The next project to release, Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh™ “TOY” is a fourpiece drop in multiple dimensions: a personal, unique connection to a master artist; a slice of the shared fruit of culture that inspires us; and a conduit to our past selves and the future possibilities.

The narrative also presents the objects in new and evolving contexts—from "NOVELTY" to "TOY", and finally elevated to "ART."

The “TOY” packaging and figures feature monochromatic tones leaning into taupe, an Abloh-favorite. Other signature elements are noted and quoted.

The reasoning behind the quotes, Abloh explains, "It's basically humor. A couple people laughed when I brought up quotes, and that's literally the point of that tool. To insert humanity through conversation. You open up when you laugh. And obviously, in a way where vintage is cooler than a popular trend item, it's just us being ironic."

Each figure is delivered with contrarian phrasing, which Abloh refers to as a "LOADED MESSAGE." This tactic leaves elements open for the audience to interpret, and, he notes, "speaking in quotes allows me to say two things at the same time. To be figurative, and sort of precise."

The final storytelling element in the collection pulls another fixture from Abloh's early orbit: Each “TOY” figure is packaged with a mini-comic and artwork by Reggieknow.

A creative pioneer who's woven authenticity and style across numerous galaxies and zip codes, Reggieknow is credited with helping build the Chicago hip-hop scene with his legendary Dem Dare parties (and flyer art); he's also consulted for major brands and artists alike (Kayne West once dubbed him the God of Chicago hip-hop).

“Fashion is the sweet spot,” explains Reggie. “Comic book heroes wear a costume and when we leave our homes we’re in costume too. A toy’s first life is in illustration and this project “illustrates” the stages.”

Acting as a point of entry into collector's culture, the "TOY" series draws a parallel between Art Collectors and Comic Book Collectors. This parallel largely manifests in the multiple formats of packaging that contains the figures.

The Next Next

The Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh™ “TOY” collection, part one, drops 10/21/22. The second installment, “ART” will be released in December of 2022.

Each are expected to be highly sought after, but, what remains to be seen is who this project will inspire, and what new dreams it will propel forward.