Virgil Abloh — his life, death and immeasurable influence on global fashion

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The fashion designer died at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.
The fashion designer died at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.
Craig Barritt

His designs changed the world of fashion as we know it.

Although he was mostly quiet and reserved, his work has easily made him one of the most influential designers of the past decade.

Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White and creative genius behind some of the biggest luxury brands around the world, died on Sunday, 28 November 2021. According to the official Off-White website, he succumbed to a rare form of cancer he had been battling since his diagnosis in 2019.

“For more than two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare and 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."

Since the confirmation of his death, multiple celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Black Coffee, Justin, and Hailey Bieber, and many others posted tributes to the designer.

So, who was Virgil Abloh, and why was he so loved and celebrated?

Born to Ghanian parents – his mother a seamstress and his father a painter –Virgil Abloh becoming one of the biggest designers in the world seemed impossible. Against those odds, he made history in 2018 by becoming the first African American designer to work as artistic director of the menswear collection for French fashion house Louis Vuitton.

His talent was recognized across the world with the New York Times calling his work “transformative” and Vogue calling him “a multidisciplinary artist who disrupted the fashion industry". His unique perspective brought Haute-streetwear to the traditional luxury brand ‘look’ – with his structured yet baggy, 90’s inspired yet futuristic, and high-fashion yet cool enough for everyday wear style that left mega celebs and everyday people coveting his designs.  

His introduction to fashion in 2009 and the launch of his brand Off-White are said to have changed the meaning of “fashion” itself.

Read more |  Virgil Abloh: the man who brought the street to the catwalk

Here are five things you might not know about Virgil.

1. After graduating from university with a Masters in Architecture in 2006, Virgil later interned at Fendi in the same class as rapper Kanye ‘Ye’ West in 2009.

2. In 2012, he founded his own fashion house called Off-white, a luxury streetwear label. The majority of its stake, 60% was bought by LVMH.

3. He has collaborated with the likes of Nike, creating Nike Air Jordan 1 which would go on to become the statement look of a 10-shoe collaboration, dubbed “The Ten". 

4. He is the creative genius behind these famous album covers, Ye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus and Ye, and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne. He was also the creative director of Donda, Ye's 2021 album.

5. Over the years, Abloh gained recognition as a DJ and started playing shows internationally, He played at Hi Ibiza.

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