On Nov. 28, the pop culture and fashion industry experienced the heart-wrenching loss of creative genius, Virgil Abloh. The Louis Vuitton fashion designer privately battled cardiac angiosarcoma, a form of heart cancer, for two years. Abloh passed away in Chicago at the age of 41 and is survived by his wife, their two children, his parents and sister, his friends and followers who adored his remarkable impact on the world of fashion.
Virgil Abloh was born on Sept. 30, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian immigrants. At an early age, his mother immersed Virgil in her craft as a seamstress, which was likely the initial spark of his interest in clothing and design. Virgil attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he studied civil engineering. He was later accepted to the Illinois Institute of Technology, earning his master’s degree in architecture.
Abloh first dipped his toes in the fashion industry after meeting Kanye West in his early twenties. At the start of his career, Abloh worked as a creative director for Kanye’s team. Together they attended fashion week in Paris and he interned at Fendi while learning about the industry. Their goal was to bring something new to the world of fashion and create an image that represented the changing times and modern culture.
In 2013, Abloh set a brand into motion that represented his desire of deviating from the prominently traditional style in the fashion industry. Off-White became a brand characterized by a trademark cross pattern, stripes and things in quotes. It was not long before the brand gained popularity and Abloh’s designs became the talk of the industry. Models and celebrities alike praised his designs and artistic technique, leading Abloh to design their red-carpet outfits and even Hailey Bieber’s wedding dress. In a post to Instagram following Abloh’s death, Hailey Bieber wrote, “He was someone who always brought life, charisma, love and fun to any situation, and every room he walked into. A once in a generation creative mind that is so rare and I’ll never forget his impact.”
After working with Louis Vuitton for several years, Abloh was given the title of artistic director for the brand’s menswear line in 2018. Bernard Arnault, a chief executive for Louis Vuitton, affirmed that “Virgil was not only a genius designer and a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.” Along with fashion, Abloh also pursued a career as a DJ, opening for artists such as Travis Scott. He also dabbled at designing furniture for stores such as Ikea. His attempts and successes at other careers exemplify his unique creativity and passion for innovating.
A post made through Abloh’s Instagram account on Sunday stated that “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, behaving deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”
Virgil Abloh left behind not only the legacy of his creative brands but also the inspiration for future designers to incorporate modern culture into the fashion industry. He will be deeply missed.