Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton and Off-White founder, dies of cancer at 41
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He 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,” the post read.
“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.
Virgil Abloh pictured outside an event in Paris in July this year. Credit: Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Abloh was a true multi-hyphenate — first, and foremost a fashion designer, who before making history as Louis Vuitton’s first Black artistic director, founded the cultish streetwear label Off-White.
At Louis Vuitton, he brought in a younger demographic, with menswear collections that blurred the lines between high fashion and streetwear, as well as pushed artistic boundaries and challenged gender norms. A sparkly “embroidered bib” he designed, for example, became an instant talking point when it was worn by Timothee Chalamet to the Golden Globes in 2019. Other versions were donned by Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman.
At the 2019 Golden Globes, Timothee Chalamet instantly went viral when he appeared on the red carpet wearing a black sparkling Louis Vuitton harness. Scroll through the gallery for more of Virgil Abloh’s best designs and collaborations. Credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Famous for cross-collaborations, one of Abloh’s greatest legacies was his contribution to the world of footwear — setting the standard for innovative sneakers, in edition after edition of Off-White x Nike designs.
Kanye West and Virgil Abloh pose after the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring-Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 21, 2018 in Paris, France. Credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/French Select/Getty Images
Tributes poured in overnight for the late designer, who was one of fashion’s most powerful Black men, in an industry that notoriously lacks diversity. Harlem couturier Daniel Day, known as Dapper Dan, spoke to the point in an Instagram post, writing “Virgil’s life was a testament to how much Black Lives Matter by showing what black lives are capable of.
“His march took him to the top of luxury fashion. Virgil started out as a foot soldier but died a general.”
British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful called him “a giant among men,” on Instagram, writing that Abloh always worked “to open the door to art and fashion for future generations, so that that they — unlike himself, would grow up in a creative world with people to mirror themselves in.”
Virgil Abloh speaking on his design philosophy at Design Miami in 2016
Models Gigi Hadid and Hailey Bieber also took to social media, with the latter writing that Abloh was “a once in a generation creative mind,” who altered the way she looked at street style and fashion. Accompanying the Instagram post was a photo of Bieber with Abloh, who custom-designed her lace wedding dress in 2019.
“I knew then I was experiencing the honor of wearing a designer whose work transcends both past and present.”
The luxury group LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, tweeted about his death and, in a statement, quoted LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault: “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.”
“I’m also honored to use this partnership to deepen my longstanding commitment to expand opportunities for diverse individuals and foster greater equity and inclusion in the industries we serve,” Abloh said at the time. “This is an incredible new platform to take the disruption we’ve achieved together to a whole new level.”
Abloh, the son of Ghanaian immigrants, was born in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois. He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology; a foundation that would later influence his broader practice.
“I look at my work as metaphoric — what can exist in different disciplines of design, how you can form a new design language, and engage a younger audience, across icons, using some different techniques and investigations.”
On June 21, 2018 Virgil Abloh showed his first collection as artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. Credit: Peter White/Getty Images
Before his untimely death, he was working on plans for a fashion show in Miami, Florida, to coincide with the opening of a new Louis Vuitton men’s store in the city.