Virgil Abloh, the founder of streetwear label Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, has passed away at the age of 41. The news of the designer’s death broke out on Sunday afternoon and was confirmed by Abloh’s family. For more than two years, Abloh had privately “battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma.”
Abloh ascended to the highest echelons of fashion in 2018 when he was appointed the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear division. Earlier this year, LVMH expanded Abloh’s portfolio and he was allowed to work across the group’s 75 brands. Effectively, this made Abloh the most powerful Black executive in the most influential luxury group in the world.
The prolific designer elevated streetwear to its current luxurious status and has changed the way many of us dress now. At the heart of it all is Abloh’s belief in creating a community and addressing evolving consumer needs. The new generation of fashion consumers now have greater purchasing power and they are not looking at just the material aspect of a piece of clothing but its intrinsic values as well. To do that, Abloh engaged directly with his followers, making them feel comfortable in his world.
More than just an act of shopping whenever he launched a new product, fans of Abloh saw it as an opportunity to hang out with a group of like-minded people. Abloh even offered advice on how young designers can also launch brands of their own. “You can do it too” read the caption under his first Instagram post after he debuted his collection for Louis Vuitton.
Other than his roles in fashion, Abloh was also a celebrated DJ who opened for artists such as Travis Scott. He even earned a Grammy nomination for his creative direction for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s collaborative album, “Watch the Throne.” He was also an advocate for Black creatives in the highly insulated industry. Using his position, he established the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, raising US$1 million to encourage Black students in fashion. He was also on board of the CFDA in 2019 and even tutored A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” said Bernard Arnault, LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend.”
Image: Louis Vuitton
Born in Rockford, Illinois in 1980, Abloh was an artist, architect, engineer, creative director, and designer. After earning his degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. According to Sunday’s announcement, Abloh “is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues”.