Ghanaian-American fashion designer Virgil Abloh who became more popular after bagging the position of Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton has passed away at the young age of 41 after a secret battle with cancer for two years.
Virgil Abloh started his own fashion brand, Off-White fashion label in 2012, a style that allowed for a mix between streetwear and high-end fashion, with his influence including graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture. His luxury streetwear label found success with both celebrities and teenagers alike. Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Beyoncé and Jay-Z were all seen wearing Off-White pieces.
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After working for Kanye for several years, Virgil joined Louis Vuitton in 2018, where he made history as the first Blackman to lead Louis Vuitton in the company’s history. Since then, he has been moving higher, and anyone who followed his page could tell the sky was just his starting point.
In July of 2021, LVMH expanded Virgil’s role with the company, giving him the mandate to launch new brands and partner with existing ones in various sectors beyond just fashion.
Sadly just at the pic of his career in 2019, he was diagnosed with rare cancer. He was still actively working on his business endeavours as recently as November 5th, where he appeared and spoke publicly at the National Museum of Qatar.
His death came as a shock to the fashion world and the rest of the world after his family announced his passing via his Instagram account on Sunday, November 28th, afternoon.
Virgil Abloh was born on September 30th, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois, USA, to Ghanian immigrant parents. He lived in Rockford, where he attended high school and continued tertiary at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated in 2002. He will later receive masters in architecture in 2006, and this was when he developed an interest in fashion.
After his graduation, Virgil Abloh met Kanye West around 2009, which led to a business collaboration. Kanye later appointed him as his creative director. In 2012, he created De Off-white brand, which made him even more popular and LVMH, bought a 60-per cent stake in the business.
When Abloh became the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, he joined a small group of Black designers working in French design houses at such a high level. According to some reports, Abloh was already a known name before he joined Louis Vuitton. The American fashion designer also worked as a DJ and a visual artist. Abloh also collaborated with companies including Nike, Jimmy Choo, Champion and several others.
Sadly, Abloh was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer, in 2019, and he battled it privately. This was revealed on the post that announced his passing on his personal Instagram page.
“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,” the Instagram post read.
The post also revealed that between his many projects and collaborations, Abloh kept moving even as he was given a cancer diagnosis. Explaining, the post read;
“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,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”
Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his two children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.
Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH announced Abloh’s death in a tweet on Sunday, along with a joint statement with Louis Vuitton and Off-White.
“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. 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 father, their brother or their friend,” CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault said in the statement.
Celebrities and peers, after hearing the sad news, are sending their condolences and tributes.
Supermodel Winnie Harlow shared this picture and wrote, “RIP to a visionary and icon who helped push the culture forward and open doors and break down barriers, who made the next generation of creatives feel anything is possible.”
Another supermodel, Adut Akech, wrote, “I’m just lost for words, I feel sick to my stomach It was an honour to know and be in your presence, Virgil. To work with you and be in your creative world. Thank you for all that you’ve done for the culture.
We’ve lost a real one.
But your legacy will live forever. Rest In Peace, King Virgil Abloh. This has been the worst week of my life”.
Rapper Drake shared a series of memorable photos with the designer and wrote’; “My plan is to touch the sky 1000 more times for you…love you eternally brother 🕊thank you for everything”.
Singer Pharrell Williams wrote, ‘My heart is broken. Virgil, you were a kind, generous, thoughtful, creative genius. Your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever. Sending love and light to your wife, children, family and day ones. You’re with the Master now, shine.
African Giant Burnaboy also took to social media to mourn the fashion designer, revealing that he was talking to him about being the creative designer for his next album.