Abloh’s death was announced Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 by LVMH Louis Vuitton and the Off White label, the brand he founded. | AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File
For the last two years, the Illinois Institute of Technology grad battled cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer in which a tumor occurs in the heart.
NEW YORK — Designer Virgil Abloh, a leading fashion executive and Kanye West collaborator educated in Chicago, has died after a private battle with cancer. He was 41.
Abloh’s death was announced Sunday by the luxury group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) and the Off White label, the brand Abloh founded. Abloh was the menswear designer of Louis Vuitton.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH said in a statement.
A statement from Abloh’s family on the designer’s Instagram account said for the last two years, Abloh battled cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer in which a tumor occurs in the heart. He died in Chicago, the New York Times reported.
“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 read.
Among those paying tribute Sunday was musician Pharrell Williams, who tweeted, “Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever.”
A son of Ghanian immigrants, Abloh grew up in Rockford but spent frequent weekends in Chicago with his extended family. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Abloh went on to earn his master of architecture degree at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology.
Kanye West and Virgil Abloh share a humorous moment during a private event at the MCA celebrating the opening of the exhibit “Virgil Abloh: ‘Figures of Speech.”
While a grad student, he met Kanye West and began working with him, ultimately serving as the Chicago rapper’s creative director and designing the album art for his albums “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” “Watch the Throne” (with Jay-Z) and “Yeezus.”
“[West’s] body of work is obviously influential and, safe to say, generation-defining,” Abloh told the Sun-Times in 2019. “Being able to work alongside him as he crafted his career gave me insight on me crafting my name as an artist in my own right.”
After interning at Fendi and experimenting with a clothes line called Pyrex Vision, he planted a more permanent flag in the fashion world in 2013 with his Milan-based company Off-White, which incorporates such signature elements as zip ties, quotation marks and barricade tape. It has played a major role in making streetwear a force in high fashion.
Models wear creations by Virgil Abloh for the Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2019-20 menswear collection in Paris in January 2019.
“Part of my equation is to inspire the next generation and to help them think outside the box,” Abloh told Interview magazine in 2018. “When I was growing up, I didn’t know that I could be showing in Paris, because I didn’t see anyone doing that who looked like me. Even when I just walked into a luxury store, people would look at me like I didn’t belong there.”
In 2018, Abloh was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. The first museum exhibition of his work, “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” ran in 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Kanye West was among its visitors.
At the time, Abloh said his creative approach was “a little about exploration. It’s not taking things as fact.”
A statement from the museum on Sunday said, “We’re deeply saddened by the news of Virgil Abloh’s unexpected passing. We hope his spirit of creativity lives on through all those who are inspired by his work that spanned fashion, music, art, and much more.”
Hanna Garcia Fleer
Shoes designed by Virgil Abloh for Nike were part of the 2019 exhibition “Figure of Speech.”
So eloquent was the designer that a book of his quotations, “Abloh-isms,” was published this year by Princeton University Press. “Virgil Abloh says the darndest, most illuminating things,” WWD wrote of the book.
Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh and his children, Lowe and Grey.
Contributing: Kyle MacMillan, USA Today