The barrier-breaking designer Virgil Abloh, whose ascent to the heights of the traditional luxury industry changed what was possible in fashion, died on Sunday in Chicago after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 41. His death was confirmed by his family.
Virgil Abloh was an American fashion designer and entrepreneur and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton‘s menswear collection since 2018. Abloh was also the chief executive officer of the Milan-based label Off-White, a fashion house he founded in 2012.
The entrepreneur was born on September 30, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois, to Ghanaian immigrant parents. His mother was a tailor from whom he learned to sew, and his father managed a paint company. Abloh was raised in Rockford, where he attended Boylan Catholic High School, graduating in 1998, then graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.
Whilst Abloh was the attending the Illinois Institute of Technology where in 2006 he received his Master of Architecture, a building on the campus under construction designed by the architect Rem Koolhaas (Who had also worked on runway collections for Prada), helped spark his interests for fashion. During his time at IIT, Virgil designed T-shirts and wrote about fashion and design for a well-known blog, The Brilliance. Abloh first met popular musician Kanye West while working on his designs at a Chicago print shop.
Abloh, who also worked in Chicago Street fashion, entered the world of international fashion with an internship at Fendi in 2009, alongside American rapper Kanye West. The two then began an artistic collaboration that would launch Abloh’s career into founding Off-White.
In 2010 he became creative director of Donda, Mr. West’s creative incubator, helping turn Mr. West’s ideas into actuality (his laptop was described by the rapper Pusha T as “a library of everything that was aesthetically beautiful and relevant”).
He was the first African American to be artistic director at a French luxury fashion house, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018. The New York Times described Abloh’s bridging of streetwear and luxury clothing together as transformative.
Virgil Abloh raised $1 million dollars to benefit scholarships for Black students through the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which will be managed in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF), the foremost fashion-oriented education and workforce development nonprofit in the U.S. The Abloh Fund’s mission is to foster equity and inclusion within the fashion …
He is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents — and a legacy he identified during his first Louis Vuitton show, held in the gardens of the Palais Royale in front of an audience that included Mr. West, Rihanna, and ASAP Rocky, as well as 1,500 students.
“There are people around this room who look like me,” he said to The New York Times. “You never saw that before in fashion. The people have changed, and so fashion had to.” He made it so.