Celebrities Including Kanye West And Frank Ocean Have Shared Moving Tributes To Designer Virgil Abloh Following His Death From Cancer At Age 41
Virgil was the first Black man to be an artistic director for Louis Vuitton. He was also hugely influential in the music industry and received a Grammy nomination in 2011 for his work with Kanye West and Jay-Z.
Celebrities across the fashion, arts, and sports industries have shared tributes to designer Virgil Abloh, who died from cancer at age 41 on Nov. 28.
Virgil was perhaps best known for being the founder of Off-White. He later went on to become the first Black man to be an artistic director for Louis Vuitton, and the third to lead a French luxury fashion house.
On Sunday, a post on his official Instagram account shared news of his death and revealed that the designer had been privately battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, for two years.
“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend,” the post read.
“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 continued. “Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered.”
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 both Louis Vuitton and Off-White, said in a statement that Virgil was not only a “genius designer,” but also “a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.”
Tributes have flooded in from Virgil’s colleagues in the fashion industry, including statements from luxury fashion houses like Gucci, Dior, Fendi, and Jacquemus.
Kendall Jenner, a close friend and collaborator of the designer, led memorial posts from runway supermodels who have worked alongside Virgil throughout his career in fashion.
“If you had the privilege of knowing Virgil, you were one of the lucky ones,” she began in an Instagram post featuring a string of photographs of them together.
Kendall has walked in several of Virgil’s Off-White fashion shows, and the pair collaborated on the model’s 2018 Met Gala gown.
“He had the most wonderful way of making you feel so special. His genuine smile would warm your heart,” she went on. “We have lost a dear friend. No words do my feelings justice at this very moment, but what I can say is that I am absolutely heart broken.”
Following suit were supermodel sisters, Bella and Gigi Hadid, who, like Kendall, worked closely with Virgil throughout his career.
“You broke boundaries and made everything your own. You shared your love infinitely. The way your brain worked was beyond anything,” Bella wrote of the designer beneath a carousel of photographs of the pair. “We’re gonna miss you a lot V.”
Echoing her sister, Gigi described Virgil as “1 of 1” and said that she is “heartbroken by the loss of my dear friend, and a friend to the world.”
Many of their fellow fashion industry peers, including Kaia Gerber, Ashley Graham, Emily Ratajkowski, and Derek Blasberg, also shared heartfelt posts commemorating Virgil on Instagram.
However, one model who had a particularly special bond with the designer is Hailey Bieber. After the tragic news broke, Hailey shared never-before-seen photographs of her and Virgil during fittings for her Off-White bridal gown which she wore when she married Justin Bieber in 2018.
“Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply,” she said on Instagram, before going on to express her gratitude for the time she and Virgil had shared.
“I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him, from walking on his runways to having him design my wedding dress and all the other amazing moments in between,” Hailey added. “I felt he was always rooting for me.”
Meanwhile, her husband Justin Bieber shared a tribute of his own, writing on Instagram: “We lost a real one, rest in paradise king.”
Alongside Justin, plenty of other musicians have spoken out on social media in memory of Virgil, who was as beloved in the music industry as he was in the fashion world.
Virgil has been cited as an influence by some of the industry’s most prominent artists, including Drake, Offset, Future, Young Thug, and perhaps most famously, Kanye West.
In a short Instagram post featuring a series of images of himself and Virgil, Drake wrote, “My plan is to touch the sky 1000 more times for you…love you eternally brother…thank you for everything.”
Jaden Smith — who has also credited Virgil as one of his key inspirations — mourned the death of a “genius” on Instagram.
Countless music industry greats like Pharrell Williams, Frank Ocean, and Questlove also penned tributes online. While other artists — including Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and Jack Harlow — reposted photographs on their Instagram stories.
And aside from his accomplishments in fashion, Virgil was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package in 2011 for his cover art design for Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album, Watch the Throne.
In fact, in the wake of his death, many fans were quick to turn their thoughts to Kanye, who was an especially close friend to Virgil.
Kanye and Virgil, who are both from Chicago, began working together in 2002. They both interned at Fendi in 2009, and Kanye later named Virgil as the creative director of Donda — his creative agency — in 2010.
The duo went on to collaborate on some of Kanye’s most iconic albums including, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, and as previously mentioned, his Grammy-nominated project with Jay-Z.
Virgil was even a groomsman at Kanye’s wedding to Kim Kardashian in 2014.
In light of their decadeslong relationship, fans instantly expressed concern for how Kanye might be handling the news of Virgil’s death.
Kanye is yet to issue a formal statement, but he did dedicate his most recent Sunday Service to Virgil in the wake of the tragic death.
In yesterday’s livestreamed event, Kanye’s Sunday Service choir performed reworkings of Drake’s “God’s Plan” and Adele’s “Easy on Me.” At the end of the performance, text on the screen read: “In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Donda.”
As a testament to his impact upon wider popular culture, several actors and sports stars also shared posts honoring the Off-White founder.
Actors including Idris Elba, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Timothée Chalamet spoke out on social media to mourn the loss of the designer, with the latter sharing screenshots of what appeared to be an old DM conversation between Virgil and himself.
Virgil branched into the world of sportswear with a highly innovative activewear collaboration between Off-White and Nike. Several of the exclusive custom looks were perhaps most famously worn on the tennis court by his longtime collaborator and friend Serena Williams.
Serena has yet to comment on Virgil’s death, but her husband, Alexis Ohanian, wrote on Instagram that he was “gutted” to hear of the tragic loss.