Virgil Abloh, The First Black Man To Be An Artistic Director At Louis Vuitton, Has Died At 41
"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."
Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White and artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, died Sunday from cancer. He was 41 years old.
Abloh was the first Black man to be an artistic director for Louis Vuitton and the third to lead a French luxury fashion house.
A statement from his Instagram account said that for more than two years, Abloh 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," the statement said. "Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered."
Abloh was driven by his dedication to his craft, his desire to open doors for others, and his mission of creating "pathways for greater equality in art and design," the statement said.
"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 said.
Abloh was born Sept. 30, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois, to Nee and Eunice, immigrants from Ghana. Eunice was a seamstress and taught him how to use a sewing machine, according to Vogue.
He started designing T-shirts at a young age, and in high school he was a skateboarder, soccer player, and tagger, according to a profile of Abloh in the New Yorker.
“People think I’m not crafty, but when I was a kid, I loved making paper airplanes, balsa-wood planes,” Abloh told the New Yorker. “I have a very steady hand. And then graffiti, obviously.”
He went on to get an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a master's degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
He interned at Fendi alongside Kanye West in 2009, and the two began collaborating. Abloh soon after became creative director at Donda, the rapper's creative agency. In 2011, Abloh was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package for his cover art design for Jay-Z and West's album, Watch the Throne.
Abloh's first show in June 2018, months after he joined Louis Vuitton, marked a new chapter in fashion, according to Women's Wear Daily, not only because it was the moment when streetwear crashed the hallowed halls of luxury brands but also because it was the first time a Black man had taken the reins of a major luxury brand.
He is survived by his wife, Shannon Abloh, children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.
The LVMH group, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, said that Abloh was not only a "genius designer" but "also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom."
Luxury design house Gucci called Abloh "an immense inspiration to us all both as a designer and as a person. He will be deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career."