Virgil Abloh, who made history as Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director, is dead at age 41 following a years-long battle with cancer.
The fashion prodigy had been privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma, which he was diagnosed with within 2019.
‘We are all shocked by this terrible news, Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,’ Louis Vuitton executive director Bernault Arnault said in a statement. ‘The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their brother, their father or their friend.’
The founder of Off-White had taken over the role of Kim Jones, the new Christian Dior menswear designer and his first men’s collection with Louis Vuitton is expected to be presented in June during Paris Men’s Fashion Week.
He said in a conversation with The New York Times that he is ‘elated’ with his new position and ‘this opportunity to think through what the next chapter of design and luxury will mean at a brand that represents the pinnacle of luxury was always a goal in my wildest dreams.
‘And to show a younger generation that there is no one way anyone in this kind of position has to look is a fantastically modern spirit in which to start,’ Virgil said. But who is Virgil Abloh?
Born on September 30, 1980, in Chicago, the first-generation Ghanaian-American Virgil Abloh was raised in Rockford, Illinois.
Abloh studied for his Masters of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology before receiving his undergraduate in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Although having no formal training as a designer, he learned from his mother who was a seamstress. On the day he graduated in 2003, Virgil met Kanye and went on to meet his then-manager John Monopoly. He became a member of his creative team soon after.
Career highlights include the launch of his art and menswear boutique RSVP Gallery and being the art director for the 2011 Jay Z and Kanye West album Watch the Throne and were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
When did Virgil Abloh start to design clothes?
Virgil is also thought to have got the inspiration for the launch of his own streetwear brand Off-White after working with the rappers at Fendi Roma before they launched Pyrex Vision.
Speaking with the Times, he said that ‘for the last eight to ten years we’ve been having this conversation about what’s new, and for me, that has to do with making luxury relatable across generations.
‘The first thing I am going to do is define new codes. My muse has always been what people wear, and I am excited to make a luxury version of that.’
Since being founded, the brand has been worn by the likes of A$AP Rocky, Justin Bieber, Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner. Off-White has also collaborated with other brands like Nike, Ikea, Champion, Jimmy Choo, Sunglass Hut and Timberland.
In 2015, Virgil was a finalist for LVMH’s Young Designers Prize which led to Abloh’s appointment as a creative director for the fashion house’s menswear.
Alongside this, Virgil is also an international DJ, having played several shows in New York City, Miami and South Korea and had a residency at Las Vegas’s XS Nightclub. He will also be performing at this year’s Lollapalooza music festival.