It has been reported that the groundbreaking African American fashion designer Virgil Abloh died last week of a rare cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He was 41 years old.
Abloh is most known for his incredible career ascension to becoming the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton in 2018 while he remained the head of Off-White, a label he founded. Abloh also worked with Nike and worked closely with rapper Kanye West as his creative director.
The powerful designer broke the mold as one of the first African American people to work in a high-ranking role for a French high-end designer. The New York Times wrote, “The appointment was seen as the dawn of a new era and a move by an industry that had long struggled to face its racism. Rather than merely appropriating or pillaging the traditions of Black culture, it was acknowledging the truth.”
Abloh did not fall in line with the fashion world—the fashion world fell in love with him and trusted his sleek, elegant and futuristic menswear designs. His fashion shows were lavish while his friends in the hip hop industry strutted down his runways alongside professional couture models.
The AmNews covered his first show for Louis Vuitton where he quickly revealed his new line for the label just three months after the announcement of his position. “Virgil Abloh showed himself to be a designer with vision and major connections, as artists such as Kanye West and Rihanna supported his first runway show for Vuitton. Not only did several influential African American artists, designers and entrepreneurs attend the show, Abloh added a handful of his friends to the show. Kid Cudi, Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Playboi Carti, A$AP Nast, Theophilius London and The Internet’s Steve Lacy all walked down the runway, showing solidarity and community for the high-end label’s leap forward into the future.”
Abloh was born in Rockford, Ill. to Ghanaian immigrant parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh. He grew up around garments as his mother was a seamstress and gave him foundational knowledge in creating.
“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,” Abloh said to GQ.
The impact Virgil Abloh made on the fashion world is priceless. He openly offered his genius and Black excellence to a world that was not constructed for him to thrive. He will forever be known as an icon and an undeniable agent for change