The transformational designer and entrepreneur whose work changed high fashion, streetwear, sneakers, and the music industry has died at the age of 41.
Virgil Abloh, one of the great creative minds, fashion designers, and collaborators of this generation, tragically passed away on Sunday, Nov. 28th, from cancer at the age of 41, the LVMH company confirmed.
Abloh was the director of LVMH’s signature Louis Vuitton men’s collection, as well as the founder and CEO of his genre-bending fashion label Off-White, which he founded in 2012.
Virgil came up in Chicago around the same time as Kanye West, meeting each other soon after Abloh graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology at a Chicago print shop Custom Kings, quickly becoming the rising star rapper’s creative collaborator. He helped design Kanye’s cover artwork for the 2008 classic 808s & Heartbreak while designing clothes on the side.
The duo became among the most influential of our time, helping merge hip-hop and fashion and bring it to the mainstream like never before. Abloh and West both interned at Fendi in 2009 while Kanye was working on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, for which Virgil was credited as art director. A year later, he was named the creative director of DONDA, West’s creative agency.
However, it was through fabric that Abloh made his greatest mark. Holding a stake in Chicago retail store RSVP Gallery, Abloh birthed the brand Pyrex Vision, which he created in 2012 by screen printing discounted Ralph Lauren flannels with Pyrex branding and Michael Jordan’s iconic No. 23 for $550 apiece. The ethos of the ‘art experiment’ that was Pyrex Vision led a year later to Off-White.
In short order, Abloh’s new label was subject to widespread acclaim and growing appeal as the perfect mix between streetwear and high fashion luxury, showing off men’s and womenswear collections in 2014 at Paris Fashion Week.
Off-White was worn by Beyonce and Nicki Minaj in 2015, helping Abloh become a 2015 LVMH Prize finalist. He opened his first retail store in Tokyo and launched his Grey Area furniture collection. Collaborations came quickly with Takashi Murakami, Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker, Jacob the Jeweler, and most famously in 2017 with Nike. Abloh’s collection known as “The Ten” reconstructed 10 influential models including the Air Jordan I, Nike Air Max 90, Nike Air Presto, Nike Air VaporMax, and Nike Blazer Mid.
He then took over at Louis Vuitton, helping modernize the haute couture staple while still propelling Off-White forward with an Ikea collaboration and a museum exhibit in Chicago.
Tributes have come and will continue to come in from the worlds of fashion and music, industries he helped bridge during his monumentally influential career that was cut far too short.