Fashion trailblazer Virgil Abloh passes away at 41. The iconic designer died on Sunday after his two-year battle with rare cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma. The Off-White founder was prolific and collaborated with brands such as Nike. Abloh was considered a fashion theorist who always took an expansive and, at times, controversial approach to his designs. Many compared him to Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
Virgil Abloh transformed the way we viewed fashion. For Abloh, “clothes were not garments but fungible totems of identity that sat at the nexus of art, music, politics, and philosophy.” His wife, Shannon Abloh, noted how her husband sincerely believed “in the power of art to inspire future generations.”
Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself.
“Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said in a statement. Last July, he was promoted to a new position within LVMH that allowed Abloh to work across the group’s 75 brands. Thus, making him the most powerful Black executive of a luxury group in the world. The position was non-traditional but perfect for Abloh because he was a true trailblazer. Many of his colleagues and peers revered Abloh as a “hero.”
Virgil Abloh’s Story
Virgil Abloh was born in Rockford, Ill., on Sept. 30, 1980, to Nee and Eunice Abloh, Ghanaian immigrants, and grew up immersed in skate culture and hip-hop. He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Abloh received his big break at the age of 22 when he met Kanye West. West signed a sneaker collaboration with LV, and Abloh was a part of the creative team.
“Streetwear wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but the sort of chatter at dinners after shows was like ‘Fashion needs something new. It’s stagnant. What’s the new thing going to be?’ That was the timeline on which I was crafting my ideas,” Mr. Abloh later told GQ. That was also when he and Mr. West began a six-month internship at Fendi, making $500 a month and learning the business from the inside out. Abloh later went on to become the Creative Director of Donda. Rapper Pusha-T described his laptop as “a library of everything that was aesthetically beautiful and relevant.’”
In 2012, Abloh and two men he met through Donda teamed up to create Been Trill, a DJ, and creative collective. Been Trill later mutates to Pyrex Vision, then eventually becomes Off-White — a twisty, collaborative creative journey that became a trademark of Abloh. Other trademarks of his use of quotation marks and winking allegiance to what he called in The New Yorker “the three percent rule” and in a Harvard lecture “cheat codes”: the idea that you can take an existing design and change it just a bit, and it will qualify as new. Abloh’s work preceded him.
In 2019, he opened a major exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago titled “Figures of Speech. And after the social justice protests of 2020, he established the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, where he raised $1 million to encourage Black students in fashion.
Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and his parents. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.