Image via Myles Kalus Anak Jihem / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Virgil Abloh, one of the most prolific names in fashion today, passed away on Sunday, November 28, having privately coped with cancer. He was 41 years old.
The designer battled cardiac angiosarcoma, an extremely rare, aggressive cancer of the heart, with which he had chosen to deal with privately since being diagnosed in 2019, according to a statement posted on his Instagram account.
Abloh carved a name for himself and his streetwear label Off-White in more ways than one. As Louis Vuitton’s newly-appointed menswear artistic director in 2018, he became the first Black man to lead a major luxury fashion business and also bridged the realms of streetwear and high fashion at his debut Louis Vuitton show that year, WWD reported. His company Off-White has frequently been named as one of the world’s hottest brands by Lyst, even clinching the number-one spot previously.
Off-White’s high-profile “The Ten” collaboration with Nike also helped spearhead collecting sneakers as a hobby in recent years. Highsnobiety called the long-running range “the biggest sneaker event of 2017.”
“We are all shocked after this terrible news,” said LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault in a joint statement released by LVMH, Louis Vuitton, and Off-White. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom… 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.”
LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Off White are devastated to announce the passing of Virgil Abloh, on Sunday, November 28th, of cancer, which he had been battling privately for several years. pic.twitter.com/CytwZLvSFu
— LVMH (@LVMH) November 28, 2021
A tribute on Abloh’s Instagram page reads: “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend… 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.”
“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,” the statement continues. “We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.”
His achievements seem even more impressive than they already are when you realize that Abloh was an architecture student. But fashion had always run in his veins—Abloh, who was a skateboarder, soccer player, and tagger in high school, began designing T-shirts at a young age, the New Yorker reported back in 2019.
“People think I’m not crafty, but when I was a kid, I loved making paper airplanes, balsa-wood planes,” he told the magazine then. “I have a very steady hand. And then graffiti, obviously.”
Abloh first worked with Kanye West in 2009 when they were both interns, and later went on to design several collections alongside the now-YEEZY founder.
The designer’s passing has indubitably left an imprint in fashion, and big names in the industry have poured in their condolences to his loved ones.
“It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Virgil Abloh. It’s a shock to the entire fashion world,” expressed Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault in a statement published by WWD. “Virgil Abloh brought the eyes of a new generation to many creative fields. He contributed to making fashion more open and inclusive. My thoughts are with his family, his loved ones and all his collaborators.”
Alexandre Arnault, executive vice president of Tiffany & Co and son of the LVMH CEO, remembered Abloh as “the essence of modern creativity” and “a dear friend, always giving me the most precious advice.” The two crossed paths during a collaboration between Abloh and Rimowa, of which Alexandre Arnault had been CEO.
“It was always a privilege to work with him [on] many occasions and I was constantly amazed by the amount of groundbreaking ideas coming out of his brain,” noted Alexandre Arnault. “Thank you for everything you brought to the world Virgil. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, wife and children.”
Kim Jones, artistic director for Dior Men and Fendi womenswear and couture director, said Abloh was “one of the kindest people you could meet.” He added, “My thoughts to [Abloh’s wife] Shannon and the rest of his family.”
Gucci shared that Abloh would be “deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career. Although the two didn’t work together, the fashion house called him “an immense inspiration to us all both as a designer and as a person.”
“The first time I met him I was struck by his gentleness, kindness and simplicity, the latter a quality difficult to find in our world,” mourned Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. “He will be sorely missed.”
Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon, children Lowe and Grey, sister Edwina, and parents Nee and Eunice.
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