On November 28, Virgil Abloh, founder of the Off-White brand and creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, died of cancer at the age of 41. Anyone who knew anything about Virgil Abloh was shocked by the news of his death. Even those who didn't feel close to the aesthetics of his collections now recognize the brilliant designer for having brought high fashion closer to people - and vice versa. Abloh created worldwide hype by queuing up for sneakers, blurred the lines between the runway and streetwear, and made people happier who got to know him.
From Virgil Abloh's personal Instagram profile, it was known that he lived with a rare form of cancer: angiosarcoma of the heart. This was announced on Sunday November 28, jointly by LVMH and the designer-led brands. The creative director of Louis Vuitton and founder of the Off-White brand had already been diagnosed in 2019. Abloh was struggling with a serious illness that was rapidly progressing, but decided to hide it from the public. The designer continued to work, create collections and travel with DJ sets around the world.
Musicians and stylists, fashion editors and designers, streetwear fans and almost everyone in general didn't expect him to leave us so soon. It seems that, in part, Abloh was an incomprehensible artist because his work has always been treated radically differently. Some were madly in love with everything he did, and others wondered how anyone could like his work: from clothes to music. Yet Virgil was a true master and managed to turn the fashion industry around.
Virgil Abloh did not have an elite design school or specialized education behind him. In 2002 he received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and in 2006 a master's degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Virgil & Kanye
By that time, Abloh had already fulfilled his dream and met Kanye West, with whom he attended shows and entered the world of street style. Subsequently, West, who did not want to give the visual component of his work to a record label, entrusted it to a friend who convinced him that he was ready to work 24/7. So Abloh became the creative director of the Donda agency, where he took care of the design of the albums, shows and merchandising.
An artist, an art lover. Virgil Abloh didn't consider himself a fashion designer, and not everyone in the industry was quick to call him a dress designer. He proved that building a brand can be based on any creative background. Abloh has an architectural education from the Illinois Institute of Technology and internships at Fendi and Kanye West, and has worked as a creative and art director at the Donda label. His passion for music is also reflected in his creations because rhythms and notes are the same tools with which he expressed his mood.
Off White: the beginning of the fashion revolution
"Off-White is something like a resume, the embodiment of my state of mind and ideas for modern luxury brands. It's almost like a laboratory. The foundations for everything I do now were laid during the childhood. I was just a normal suburban kid, skating, listening to Nirvana, the Beastie Boys, rap. You can imagine how I was then." Imagining streetwear culture without the Off-White brand is now simply impossible.
When Virgil launched the brand in 2013, he already seemed to know he was revolutionizing and taking street fashion to the next level. Street couture: this is how Abloh's creations can be called. But it all started with the Pyrex Vision project, in which the artist transformed vintage items from Ralph Lauren, Champion and other American brands into exclusive models. Wielding a brush and colors, Virgili painted vintage clothes and sold them at a much more expensive price.
The power of collaboration
The main secret that Virgil Abloh has revealed to the whole world is where the power of collaboration lies. Yes, the name of the master has always stood next to the term "HYPE" - and this is quite justified. Abloh's joint publications with Nike, IKEA, Levi's, Rimowa, Mercedes-Benz and other companies have become a real asset to the creative industry. The artist was able to arouse interest in collections, create enthusiasm around things familiar and improved by the hand of Virgil.
He knew how to create originals from the simple, like the Off-White X Jimmy Choo shoes, wrapped in opaque material so as not to give them up in case of bad weather. Or other cutting-edge staples like the leaky Off-White Meteor bag and Louis Vuitton sweater with plushies for $8,000. And the main thing is to sell everything: according to the LVMH report for the first half of 2021, the company's turnover reached 28.7 billion euros, and it was Louis Vuitton that became the most profitable brand.
Virgil & LVMN
In 2018, Abloh joined LVMH as Creative Director. He started developing not only for Louis Vuitton and Off-White, but also for other projects of the company. The designer became the first black in this position, says Anna Lebsak-Kleimans, CEO of Fashion Consulting Group:
"It is a unique situation: the oldest French house in fact puts a foreigner with roots in Ghana in charge of its communication and creativity strategies. A change similar to the one impressed by the creator himself on the brand which has become a great giant with articles diversified.
But how will Louis Vuitton and Off-White develop after the departure of the mind? At the moment there is no precise answer.
A man of the people
In June 2020, Virgil announced he would be hosting a fundraiser for black students. The size of the Post Modern Scholarship Fund will be $1 million. Brands and companies from Farfetch, Louis Vuitton, Evian and New Guards Group have joined the designer in this initiative.
Abloh has announced the start of a long-term partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund, but the designer goes further and establishes his own. Most of the scholarships were provided by donations from Abloh. In addition, several friends and colleagues of the designer have also pledged to join the initiative, including the American designer Heron Preston.
"As a black designer, I was also looking for my way in my youth. I had to make a name for myself. I need to create this fund especially for black students who, thanks to it, will be able to find their place in the fashion industry and find people with to identify with,” commented Virgil Abloh.
Additionally, Abloh made a $20,500 donation to the Black Lives Matter movement, making it clear that the topic is extremely important to him. Additionally, Virgil Abloh has launched charity events in support of black women. The designer has invited all who are not indifferent to donate in exchange for the opportunity to design one of ten pairs of Converse sneakers in a box with his autograph.
Funds raised have enabled Black Women Radicals activists to share their work with the community and be more successful in social change. Some of these also went to the opening of Black Feminist Politics, an organization dedicated to the political education of Black feminists. Impossible to count how much Virgili has given to society, how much he has helped minorities. His background and creativity have inspired many around the world. It didn't just change fashion; it transformed life.
Virgil was a talented designer, stylist and musician who worked hard to create cool things. Collaborations with Ikea, Nike, Jimmy Choo and Byredo as well as partnerships with celebrities are examples of Abloh's extraordinary performance. He was one of the first designers to sign a contract with the hugely popular BTS group, which presented the Louis Vuitton FW2021 men's collection. The fact that a simple guy was able to make his dream come true can inspire young people who loved the things the designer created as well as his success story, personality and creativity.