The fashion world is mourning over the loss of Virgil Abloh at 41-years-old. The Illinois native was the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton and creator of iconic contemporary label Off-White who worked closely with a number of celebrities over the years, including Kanye West and Hailey Baldwin. The news of his death after a private two-year battle with cancer was announced via his Instagram page.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues,” the message began, going on to share details of his health battle
“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,” it read.
“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,” it also said. “We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.”
Learn more about Virgil here.
He was from Illinois.
Virgil was born on September 30, 1980 in Rockford, Illinois to parents Nee and Eunice Abloh. He is one of two siblings and is the older brother of his sister Edwina, 46.
After completing his high school diploma at Boylan Catholic High School, he went on to pursue his post-secondary studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering in 2002. He fell in love with fashion while studying for a Master of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 2006.
He worked with Kanye West.
Virgil Abloh first met rapper Kanye West in 2007 while on the steps of Chicago print shop Custom Kings after Don C had commissioned the young designer for some work.
“Kanye wasn’t going to put his art form in the hands of the art department at the record label. So he was like, ‘I am going to hire you, and let’s literally work on this 24–7, laptop in hand, nonstop,’” Virgil recalled to GQ in 2019. “So more than any title, I was just his assistant creatively. I believed that this was going to be another chapter in hip-hop,” he explained.
The pair then collaborated on Kanye’s first sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton back in 2009, which put streetwear on the map in a big way. “When Kanye and I were first going to fashion shows, there was no one outside the shows. Streetwear wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but the sort of chatter at dinners after shows was like ‘Fashion needs something new. It’s stagnant. What’s the new thing going to be?’ That was the timeline on which I was crafting my ideas,” Virgil also said. The two also interned together at Fendi.
He later worked as creative director on Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne album and tour in 2011.
He was Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton.
Virgil took the reigns of Louis Vuitton‘s men’s line as Artistic Director in 2018 — a role formerly held by fellow fashion icon Marc Jacobs. “When I was in college, Marc Jacobs was the American designer that went to Europe and injected life into Louis Vuitton by bringing Takashi Murakami or Stephen Sprouse,” Virgil said a year after the history making appointment, which made him the first Black person to lead the French luxury house’s mens line.
“When I stepped into the role, my office is [Marc’s] exact same office. I’m coming in at a time to re-interpret or channel this brand into the modern era. And I’m very much following in the steps of someone who I admire and put a great deal of belief into. I was carrying on a tradition that I believed in,” Virgil also said.
LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, also issued a statement paying tribute to Virgil after his death. “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,” a tweet read, including a statement from chairman Bernard Arnault.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard wrote.
He created Off-White.
Off-White has become one of the most influential contemporary fashion labels in recent years, blending high fashion and streetwear. American-born Virgil founded the label in Milan back in 2012, which quickly went on to become a celebrity favourite worn by the likes of Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, Beyonce, Travis Scott and more.
He also designed Hailey Baldwin’s wedding dress for her nuptials to Justin Bieber in 2019. “@virgilabloh thank you for making my vision come to life and creating my dream dress. You and your @off____white team are incredible and I’m forever grateful I got to wear your beautiful creation,” she wrote on an Instagram post after the wedding. The backless gown included a long veil that included one of Virgil’s signature design traits of bold text statements, this one appropriately reading “Just Married.”
He has a family.
Virgil married wife Shannon Abloh (née Sundberg) in 2009 after initially meeting in high school. The couple are parents to kids Lowe and Grey.