THE shock death of acclaimed menswear designer Virgil Abloh sent shockwaves across social media on Sunday after it was revealed the 41-year-old had succumbed to a secret battle with heart cancer.
Shortly before his passing Abloh, who was the first black man to be an artistic director at Louis Vuitton, had spoken optimistically about the future, writing on Instagram about his efforts to inspire the next generation of designers.
In a post on November 19 – nine days before his death – the fashion pioneer and founder of Off-White shared a candid glance into his creative process, showcasing the inspiration behind the design of a new Braun wall stereo.
“Good design has a critical role to play in addressing the problems of today and driving behavioral change, so we can have a positive impact in shaping our future and the future of this planet,” Abloh wrote.
“my whole premise is to lift up the next generation of designers, innovators, and creative minds from non-typical trajectories,” he continued.
Just two days ago, Abloh unveiled the launch of a new line of jeans he designed with Tremaine Emory, called ABLOH TEARS.
The jeans, which retail for $1,145, are embroidered with white floral ‘Peace’ signs and black candelabras. Printed versions of the jeans are also available for $430.
Read our Virgil Abloh live blog for the very latest news and updates…
Images published earlier today by The Sun also showed a healthy-seeming Abloh walking the streets of New York City on October 29 with Russell Winfield as part of a snowboard collaboration.
In one of the pictures, a smiling Abloh was seen embracing Winfield in the middle of a cross-section.
Abloh’s death was announced in a post on his Instagram page on Sunday afternoon, spurring an outpouring of grief from celebrity friends and fashion fans.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend,” the heartfelt post began.
“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. 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.
“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.”
The post continued: “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.
“We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.”
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Louis Vuitton executive director Bernault Arnault also released a statement confirming Abloh’s death, remembering the Ghanaian-born designer as a “genius” of his field.
“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,” Arnault wrote.
“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.”
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In 2018, Abloh became the first black artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton.
He first rose to fame in 2009, following his collaboration with Kanye West after the pair interned together at the LVMH brand Fendi. He later joined West’s agency Donda as creative director, designing a number of the rapper’s album covers.
Taught to sew by his mother, Abloh had no formal fashion training but had a degree in engineering and a master’s in architecture.
Abloh, who grew up in Rockford, Illinois, outside of Chicago, was often referred to as a Renaissance man in the fashion world who, in just a short time, emerged as one of the industry’s most heralded designers.
He took what he called a “3% approach” to fashion – the idea that a new design could be created by changing an original by 3 percent.
“Streetwear in my mind is linked to Duchamp,” Abloh told the New Yorker of his approach in 2019. “It’s this idea of the readymade. I’m talking Lower East Side, New York. It’s like hip-hop. It’s sampling. I take James Brown, I chop it up, I make a new song.”
A-list stars lined up to be dressed by Abloh for the year’s most coveted events, from the Oscars to the Met Gala.
Beyoncé, Michael B. Jordan, Kim Kardashian, Timothée Chalamet, Serena Williams, and countless other stars have all worn his clothes.
Speaking ahead of his debut menswear show in 2018, Abloh told GQ: “I now have a platform to change the industry.
“We’re designers, so we can start a trend, we can highlight issues, we can make a lot of people focus on something or we can cause a lot of people to focus on ourselves.
“I’m not interested in [the latter]. I’m interested in using my platform as one of a very small group of African-American males to design a house, to sort of show people in a poetic way.”
Abloh also created a scholarship fund in 2020 to assist aspiring black fashion students.
Fellow designer Marc Jacobs was among those leading tributes to Abloh on Sunday.
“I am so sorry to read this. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones,” he wrote. “May you Rest In Peace and Power dear Virgil.”
Lenny Kravitz, Riz Ahmed, Colman Domingo, the Weeknd, Pharrell Williams, BTS and Brockhampton’s Kevin Abstract all chimed in with tributes of their own.
Ahmed said on Twitter that Abloh “stretched culture and changed the game” and thanked him for all he “did to support so many & how you pushed us to reimagine what’s possible.”
“Rest in Power, King,” Kravitz wrote, sharing an image of Abloh modeling an Off-White hoodie. “You made an indelible mark on this world.”
Rapper Abstract, meanwhile, hailed Abloh as “one of the most important [artists] of our times,” who “changed the culture forever.”
Fashion powerhouse Gucci praised Abloh as an “immense inspiration” in a statement on Twitter, extending its “most heartfelt condolences” to his friends and family.
“He will be deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career,” Gucci tweeted.
Abloh is survived by his wife, Shannon Abloh, his sister, his parents and his two children.