- Virgil Abloh, 41, was one of modern fashion’s most popular designers.
- He was known for being Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director and the founder of Off-White.
- He died on November 28 after a two-year battle with a rare form of heart cancer.
Virgil Abloh, 41, died on Sunday after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.
Abloh was regarded as one of the pioneers of high-end street fashion, or what he called the “post-streetwear movement,” with roots in the classic streetwear that originated in hip-hop and skating culture. When the lines between luxury and streetwear were torn down, Abloh’s influence was everywhere, from Balenciaga selling puffer jackets to Dior collaborating with Nike on limited edition Air Jordans to Louis Vuitton partnering with Supreme to Gucci working with legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan.
As Business Insider previously reported, Louis Vuitton named Abloh its artistic director for menswear in 2018. This made him one of the few Black people to ever lead a top fashion house, and the first Black American to lead a French one.
Keep reading to learn more about one of the most popular — and controversial — figures in the fashion industry.
He was the founder of Off-White, one of the top luxury streetwear brands in the world. Aside from its own collections, the brand and Abloh collaborated with furniture store Ikea, water company Evian, luggage brand Rimowa, Jimmy Choo, Sunglass Hut, and even McDonald’s.
He told The Cut in 2017 that he didn’t really know he could be a creative full-time. “I felt that a random Black kid from the suburbs of Chicago shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.
In his senior year, he took his first art history class, in which he learned about the Renaissance and Italian painter Caravaggio. “It flipped my head backward,” he continued. “I’d spent so much time thinking practical things.”
Source: The Cut
He then went on to say that Abloh brought in a “new vocabulary to describe something as old-school as Fendi.” Burke added that he would be following Abloh’s career.
Source: The New York Times
Abloh told W magazine in 2017 that, at the time, they were just “a generation that was interested in fashion and weren’t supposed to be there” and that they “saw this as our chance to participate and make current culture. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were bringing more excitement than the industry was.”
Source: Inside Weddings
The brand is sold at Selfridges and Bergdorf Goodman, and has been sold at Barneys and Colette. He also has boutiques in Tokyo, Beijing, New York City, and Hong Kong.
“Young architects can change the world by not building buildings,” he said at a lecture at Columbia in 2017. “You don’t have to be a designer to be a designer,” is his contradictory credo.
Abloh also designed the outfit Serena Williams wore to the 2018 U.S. Open. This outfit, along with the look he designed for Beyoncé as a choice to wear on the cover of Vogue, was chosen to be on exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
“In my mind, how many more T-shirts can we own,” he told Dazed. “How many more hoodies, how many sneakers?”
He then went on to say: “We’re gonna hit this like, really awesome state of expressing your knowledge and personal style with vintage,” he said. “There are so many clothes that are cool that are in vintage shops and it’s just about wearing them.”
He then posted a screenshot of the $US50 ($AU70) he donated to a bail fund. He made the donation after receiving backlash for attacking looters who broke into the store of one of his friends, designer Sean Wotherspoon. In a comment on Instagram regarding the looting, he said:
“You see the passion blood sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me. to the kids that ransacked his store and RSVP DTLA, and all our stores in our scene just know, that product staring at you in your home/apartment right now is tainted and a reminder of a person I hope you aren’t. We’re apart of a culture together. Is this what you want?? When you walk past him in the future please have the dignity to not look him in the eye, hang your head in shame.”
However, Abloh’s small donation sparked more backlash, as many people brought up the fact that $US50 ($AU70) isn’t even enough to buy a pair of socks from his brand Off White.
It was also pointed out that the people were arrested for protesting police brutality against black men, such as Abloh. And he was then accused of not doing all he can to help out the Black community whose culture propelled him to fame.
—jade bentil (@divanificent) June 1, 2020
—Ourfa Zinali (@ourfazinali) June 1, 2020
—Derek Guy (@dieworkwear) June 1, 2020
It was also noted that other celebrities, such as Chrissy Teigen, have donated as much as $US200,000 ($AU280,358) to help protesters.
Freidman responded by simply saying, “Come do it at the Times Center.“
Abloh then sent Friedman an image from Joseph Beuys’ 1974 art piece “I Like America and America Likes Me,” in which the artist spent 8 hours with a coyote as a commentary on American society in the 1970s. Beuys said the coyote was America’s spirit animal and that the piece commented on a nation divided along multiple lines, including the Vietnam War and relations between the majority and minority populations.
Friedman’s response: “Am I the coyote in this picture? Are you Beuys? Are these relevant questions?” Abloh did not directly respond to those questions of Friedman’s.
“Like Mr. Lagerfeld he has made a community that can seem like a cult of personality around himself,” she wrote. “Like Mr. Lagerfeld, he speaks in rolling sentences and is a pleasure to listen to, especially in a world where the most celebrated names often seem to be tying themselves up in knots at the prospect of answering a question.”
“Mr. Lagerfeld was criticized for doing too much, a lot of it not well enough, as is Mr. Abloh. So far, Mr. Abloh has proved himself best as a designer when building atop a foundation established by someone else,” she continued. “His Vuitton is more interesting than his Off-White, which often seems like a pallid copy of other people’s ideas, just as Mr. Lagerfeld’s Chanel was more effective than his namesake label.”
Source: New York Times
The “post-streetwear movement” saw Dior collaborating with Nike to make limited-edition Air Jordans, Louis Vuitton launching a collaboration with Supreme, and Gucci working with legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan.
The lines between streetwear and luxury were torn down; suddenly, they were one and the same.
Aside from designing, Abloh was also a DJ, a creative and artistic director, and a social media influencer. He also had a collection of famous friends, and many people who aspire to dress, look, and be like him.