Virgil Abloh, director of Louis Vuitton, dies after a private battle against cancer at 41
“Part of my equation is to inspire the next generation and help them think outside the box,” Abloh said Interview magazine in 2018. When I was young, I didn’t know that I could show myself in Paris, because I didn’t see anyone do that that looked like me. Even when I walked into a luxury store, people looked at me like I didn’t belong.”
“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism has never wavered,” the article on his Instagram read. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his profession and his mission to open doors to others and to create paths for greater equality in art and design. He often said, ‘All I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.’
Born in Illinois to Ghanaian immigrant parents, Abloh then earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, which also sparked his interest in the fashion industry. He then went on to stage at Fendi with Kanye West, which triggered a long collaboration with the rapper.
Abloh was at the origin of several occasions of the West album, including the one of 2010 “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, the one of 2011 “Watch the Throne” with Jay-Z and the one of 2013 “Yeezus.” The rapper was present for Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton fashion show at Paris Fashion Week in 2019, where the two were photographed kissing warmly afterwards.
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His work with the West has served as a model for future cross-border collaborations that mix high and low. With Nike, he teamed up with his label Off-White for a line of wild sneakers remixed with a variety of styles and fonts Helvetica. Abloh has also designed furniture for IKEA, refillable bottles for Evian and Big Mac cartons for McDonald’s. His work has been exhibited at the Louvre, Gagosian and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Abloh, who was a moonlit DJ, often stressed how vital music was to his creative process.
“I can’t work in my studio without music. I don’t like silence,” he told Interview. “I listen to John Coltrane. I listen to Miles Davis. But I also listen to the new rap that comes out that week. I have teams in Milan, Italy, London and America, so as long as I have a fully charged iPhone, I feel like I can change the world.”
As a DJ, Abloh has earned wide recognition. He gave international concerts, including at the Hï Ibiza Disco in Spain, was booked for the Tomorrowland 2019 Music Festival in Germany, and held a DJ residency at the XS Nightclub in Wynn Las Vegas that same year.
Abloh recently made several public appearances, including the Met Gala in September and the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize Gala on November 3.
In 2018, as Abloh was preparing his first men’s clothing show, he told GQ, “I now have a platform to change the industry.”
“We’re designers, so we can start a trend, we can highlight problems, we can make a lot of people focus on something or we can make a lot of people focus on ourselves,” Abloh said. I am not interested in (the latter). I’m interested in using my platform as one of a very small group of African-American males to design a home, to sort of show people in a poetic way.
He is survived by his wife, Shannon Abloh; his children, Lowe and Grey Abloh; his sister, Edwina Abloh; his parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh; and “many dear friends and colleagues,” according to his Instagram account.
Contribution: The Associated Press