The fashion world is in shock to hear of the passing of one of the industry’s most influential designers, Virgil Abloh, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 41.
Abloh was known for fusing high-end luxury fashion with street culture, art, skate culture and hip hop.
He became a recognized name in the fashion industry as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, and founder and CEO of the Off-White label.
Abloh’s family reached out to his Instagram followers thanking them for their love and support after the designer’s passing, and explained that he had been dealing with “a rare, aggressive form of cancer,” known as cardiac angiosarcoma, for the past two years.
His diagnosis was in 2019, but Abloh “chose to endure his battle privately, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture,” the message said.
His decision to continue working while going through treatment for aggressive cancer is much like the one made by actor Chadwick Boseman, who had a similar work ethic and who passed away around the same age.
“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations,“ the message said.
Condolences from Abloh’s friends
Beyoncé was one of the first to express sadness, sending “condolences and love to the Abloh family and friends. We will forever honor you, Virgil. Thank you for inspiring an entire generation,” she wrote.
Long-time friend Kanye West dedicated his Sunday Service “in loving memory” of Abloh and the choir sang a beautiful rendition of Go Easy on Me from Adele’s recently released album 30.
Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH Group, expressed his sorrow at Abloh’s passing calling him a genius designer, a visionary, and “a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.”
Abloh and LVMH had just announced their plans to launch new brands and partner internally with other brands beyond the realm of fashion, after the LVMH Group bought a majority stake in Off-White in July.
Abloh created Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh™️ in 2012 as an artwork titled “PYREX VISION.” The next year, the brand premiered a seasonal men’s and women’s fashion label. He took on the role of artistic director in 2013 and began showing runway collections during Paris Fashion Week. About two years later the label was one of the finalists for the LVMH Prize.
Abloh was also an artist, music producer, architect and engineer
Most people know him as a designer, but few know that the Rockford, Illinois native dabbled in art, music, engineering and architecture.
He interned at Fendi with Kanye West and later worked with West at his studio DONDA. Abloh created the artwork for Ye’s album Watch the Throne, for which he received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Recording Package.
He was featured on Homme Made with Lupe fiasco and Kaelin Ellis, produced a jazzy trip-hop, electro beat version of Solid Ground, various versions of Delicate feat. serpentwithfeet, some Chicago style deep house numbers, experimental pieces and back in March he and Nigerian musician Rema produced a remix of Fela Kuti’s Peace Of Mind released on Jonzing, Mavin Records.
Abloh was an architect and engineer as well. He had a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison, and a master’s degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in a program founded by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe.
He exhibited his work at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2019, he had a major exhibition of past and current work at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, Illinois, his home state.
In his short career Abloh won various awards for his work, among them, the recent British fashion Urban Luxe award and International Designer of the Year at the GQ Men of the Year Awards in 2017.
Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon, his children Lowe and Grey, his sister Edwina, his parents Nee and Eunice, and numerous dear friends and colleagues, his Instagram message said.
Photo: Virgil Abloh, courtesy of LVMH Group