Terrible news, immense shock. Virgil Abloh died this Sunday, November 28, at the age of 41, taken by a rare cancer, a cardiac angiosarcoma, which he was suffering from since 2019 and which he fought in secret. Founder of Off-White, the first black artistic director of Louis Vuitton homme since 2018, he was by far one of the most influential and talented designers of his generation.
A private battle with cancer
It was on the genius designer’s Instagram account that the sad and shocking announcement was made on Sunday 28 November. Virgil Abloh, founder of the Off-White brand and artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear lines since 2018 has passed away. “For over two years, Virgil valiantly fought a rare and aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to fight his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing many difficult treatments, while leading several important institutions that span fashion, art and culture.”
The LVMH group later issued a heartbreaking message to also announce the news. “LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Off White are devastated to announce the death of Virgil Abloh on Sunday 28 November from cancer, which he had been fighting privately for several years.” Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, also said: “We are all shocked by this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer and visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sadness and we are all thinking of his loved ones on the passing of their husband, father, brother, son and friend.”
A designer who led the way
A child of Chicago with a passion for a streetwear culture that had long remained niche, Virgil Abloh allowed himself to dream big. So big that his work now transcends and resonates around the world, and he has become the standard-bearer for every generation. Born on September 30, 1980 in Rockford, near Chicago, this son of Ghanaian immigrants with degrees in civil engineering and architecture quickly diversified into the many interests that have fueled his boundless creativity. Art, music, design: Virgil Abloh touched on everything and contributed to the democratisation of this underground culture that had become a luxury, defended before him by great African-American talents such as Dapper Dan.
At 22, he became the right-hand man and creative director of his friend Kanye West for 14 years. He became his image advisor but also worked on the entire visual management of his label. In particular, he was in charge of all the art direction for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s album Watch The Throne. In 2012, inspired by the Tumblr generation, he founded Been Trill, alongside Matthew Williams and Heron. Their T-shirts will be worn by Kanye West, Big Sean and Rihanna.
A year later, Virgil Abloh went solo with Pyrex Vision. The label revisits iconic pieces such as Ralph Lauren shirts and Champion T-shirts stamped with the Pyrex 23 logo, and invites various talents to collaborate on exclusive capsules, such as A$ap Rocky. The brand grew as the Parisian concept store Colette began to distribute, as did Union in Los Angeles, GR8 in Tokyo and Storm in Copenhagen.
In 2013, he then founded the Off-White brand, which in a few years has become one of the world’s most popular high-end streetwear labels, in demand more than ever by millennials. His collaborations with Nike, Jimmy Choo, Ikea, Heron Preston, Moncler, Takashi Murakami and the Louvre Museum have become such a phenomenon that Virgil Abloh’s name is on everyone’s lips.
In 2018, it is the consecration. A historic decision. The LVMH group appointed him as artistic director of the men’s lines of the luxury French fashion house Louis Vuitton. He thus became the first black man to take the reins of the brand and believes he is “showing a young generation that a person in this position does not have to resemble a single model. He opened the way for more diversity and finally bridged the gap between streetwear and luxury. Beyond his exceptional work and unique vision, the world will always remember his willingness and success in breaking boundaries.