So much has been lost in the passing of Virgil Abloh, from premature death, a brilliant career cut short, a massive loss to the fashion industry, and the loss of an icon for millions. After a two-year battle with a rare type of cancer, Louis Vuitton menswear design director Virgil Abloh passed away on Sunday at the age of 41.
His Ghanaian immigrant parents brought him to the United States, where he grew up and became one of fashion’s most prominent black designers.
Attributed to him is the introduction on the catwalk of streetwear staples like hoodies and shoes.
The Chicago native has established himself as one of our generation’s most influential creative forces with his broad contributions to fashion, music, and art.
Apart from shaping the future of modern fashion, Abloh positively influenced the globe, opening doors for new designers and providing a voice to those who had previously been silenced in the art and design worlds.
Look at his professional path from Fendi intern to the founder of Off-White. An immigrant family from Ghana reared Virgil Abloh together with his younger sister in Rockford. At Boylan Catholic High School, Abloh is a green-and-white-clad 1998 graduate. To learn how to sew, he had his mother teach him.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 before continuing his education at the Illinois Institute of Technology to pursue a career in architecture.
After working for an architecture firm for two years, Abloh decided to turn his attention to the fashion industry.
As of 2009, he opened RSVP Gallery, a clothes shop, and an art gallery in Chicago.
Abloh and Kanye West, a well-known music singer who has also dabbled with fashion, worked as interns at Fendi in Rome when they were there.
As Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke previously told the New York Times, “I was quite impressed with how [Abloh and West] injected a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in a wonderful manner.”
Further, he said, “Virgil may come up with a metaphor and a new word to describe something as old-school as Fendi.
His professional trajectory has piqued my interest ever since.”
At Donda, Kanye West’s creative agency, Abloh was promoted to creative director in 2010 and directed stage performances and concert merchandising initiatives.
A Grammy nomination for his work on Jay-Z and Kanye’s ‘Watch the Throne’ album cover earned him several accolades.
In 2012, Abloh launched his first fashion company, Pyrex Vision, by screen-printing logos onto Champion t-shirts and using Ralph Lauren rugby shirts. He collaborated with Matthew Williams and Heron Preston as part of the Been Trill collective. In 2013, the company Pyrex went out of business.
The following year, Abloh founded the upmarket men’s and women’s streetwear brand Off-White. The Milan-based brand is worn by celebrities such as Jay-Z, ASAP Rocky, Rihanna, and Beyonce. In 2015, Off-White was a finalist for the LVMH Prize.
The year 2018 marked a watershed moment in Abloh’s career as he succeeded Kim Jones as artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear designs.
For the first time, high-end fashion and streetwear collided in 2018 when he debuted at LVMH as a part of the LVMH Fashion Week in Paris.
He was influenced by hip hop, skateboarding, and graffiti art.
The New York Times reports that Abloh died in Chicago.
According to a post on his Instagram account, “Virgil valiantly battled a rare and severe form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, for over two years.”
Since his diagnosis in 2019, he has opted to battle his struggle in solitude, enduring several rigorous treatments while managing several significant institutions in fashion, art, and culture,” it stated.