Virgil Abloh, who made history as Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director, is dead at age 41 following a years-long secret battle with cancer.
The fashion prodigy had been privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma, which he was diagnosed with in 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.’
Born on September 30, 1980 in Chicago, the first generation Ghanaian-American Virgil Abloh was raised in Rockford, Illinois.
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.
Virgil Abloh, who made history as Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director, is dead at age 41 following a years-long secret battle with cancer
Abloh is pictured with Gigi Hadid at the 2019 CFDA Fashion Awards held at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York
Pictured: Kanye West (left) and Abloh (right) after the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 21, 2018 in Paris, France
Pictured: Kim Kardashian (left), Kanye West (center) and Abloh (right) pose after the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 21, 2018
News of his death sent shockwaves ripping through social media, where celebrities and fans expressed shock and offered condolences.
Pharrell Williams took to Twitter with a tribute to the Off-White designer: ‘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.’
‘I am so sorry to read this,’ Marc Jacobs wrote on Twitter. ‘My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. May you Rest in Peace and Power dear Virgil.’
‘I am so sorry to read this,’ Marc Jacobs wrote on Twitter. ‘My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. May you Rest in Peace and Power dear Virgil’
‘My heart is broken,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
Following his appointment with Louis Vuitton in 2018, Abloh said in conversation with The New York Times that he was ‘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.
Louis Vuitton has named Virgil Abloh as its new Artistic Director in a landmark appointment
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 was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
Virgil had no training as a designer and he learned from his mother who was a seamstress
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 in 2018, 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 actually wear, and I am really excited to make a luxury version of that.’
Pictured: Abloh, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss during the finale of the Off-White show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on February 28, 2019 in Paris, France
Pictured: A model presents a bag creation by designer Virgil Abloh during a preview show for his Fall/Winter 2019-2020 collection for fashion house Louis Vuitton during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, France, January 17, 2019
The pictured Louis Vuitton bag, which is shaped like an airplane, retailed for $39,000
Since being founded, the brand has been worn by the likes of A$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.
Abloh is pictured with Bella Hadid during a dinner in Paris, France, on July 5, 2021
Just months ago, in late June, Abhol was seen strolling through Paris with friend Bella Hadid, showcasing his edgy style in a belted grey suit.
He emerged with the stunning model on the heels of his new collaboration with Nike and Louis Vuitton.
At the time, Sneaker News detailed: ‘Since entering mainstream consciousness, Virgil Abloh has demonstrated that he’s never not working…
‘The Illinois-native’s relentless drive has produced collections with IKEA, speakers with Ojas and recently 21 pairs of the Louis Vuitton x Off-White x Nike Air Force 1…
Model Bella Hadid is pictured stepping out with Abloh in Paris on June 24, 2021
‘Unveiled at the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring 2022 runway show in Paris on June 24th, the collection of sneakers mark yet another expansive project from Abloh.’
Abloh’s fashion legacy goes beyond clothes; he collaborated with Mercedes Benz chief design officer Gordon Wagener last year to dramatically remodel the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as a ‘stripped-back, monolithic racetrack car with analogue speedometer and dials,’ the Financial Times reported.
The result of their second collaboration, called Project Maybach, was set to make its world debut December 1.