The late designer Virgil Abloh has left his mark on the Masters of the Universe media franchise, creating a collection of figurines including He-Man and Skeletor in monochromatic shades of nude for Mattel Creations.
Abloh started the collaboration with Mattel Creations in early 2021, and the project was finished by his company Virgil Abloh Securities and his London-based design agency Alaska Alaska after his passing.
According to Mattel Creations, which works with designers to create collectible items based on Mattel properties, Abloh laid the framework and concept for the collection, which is titled Toy and forms part of a Masters of the Universe c/o Virgil Abloh series.
The set features four Master of the Universe collector figures: He-Man, Battle Cat, Skeletor and a Skeletor variation, Skele-God, ranging in colour from dark chocolate brown to light taupe.
The taupe colour is a favourite of Abloh's, who used it often in his work, including in his influential debut collection for Louis Vuitton.
"Virgil had a deep interest in the MOTU property, in which aspects of his interest was rooted in nostalgia," said Alaska Alaska. "The design direction looked to preserve the existing iconography, using colour theory as a point of entry into novelty and collector's culture, drawing a parallel between art collector and comic book collectors."
The Master of the Universe characters were first developed in the 1970s and became toys in the 1980s.
Abloh's figurines come in individual packaging that features what Abloh dubbed "loaded messages" and what Mattel Creations describes as "text-based intervention that recontextualise the figures and allow people to look at these iconic toys in a new light".
Along with text reading "MOTU c/o Virgil Abloh™" and "El Segundo, California USA" — the location of Mattel's headquarters — the clear plastic boxes feature one word in capital letters and quote marks. For He-Man the word is "woman", for Skeletor "her", for Skele-God "she", and for Battle Cat "war".
According to a Mattel Creations interview early in the project, Abloh described the reasoning for the quotes as "basically humour".
"A couple people laughed when I brought up quotes, and that's literally the point of that tool," Abloh said. "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 also comes with a comic book and an art print by Reggieknow, an artist and cultural figure who is credited with helping to build the Chicago hip-hop scene through his parties and flyer art.
According to Mattel Creations, the project had presented a chance for Abloh to "explore his love of youth culture and his desire for everyone to embrace the child within".
The designer, who was a fan of Masters of the Universe in his childhood, had featured the property before in the Paperwork beauty boxes he produced with Off-White. The idea with that project was that the boxes should come with a toy, like a kid's meal.
Mattel Creations suggests there has been an evolving narrative in these collaborations. The first Paperwork toys presented the objects as "Novelty". Now they are "Toy". A future collaboration, set for release in December 2022, will be titled "Art".
Abloh, who died in November 2021 from a rare and aggressive form of cancer, was known for merging streetwear and fashion and drawing on a broad range of cultural interests. The designer founded the brand Off-White and served as artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear.
"Virgil believed that anything was possible for humankind if only we could tear ourselves away from unconscious biases and norms and reassume the imagination we had as children," said British Vogue editor Edward Enninful in paying tribute to him after his death.
The main image is by Jason Tidwell.