Join us as we take a look back at Virgil Abloh ’s impressive career and his last work for Louis Vuitton presented this week.
Last Sunday the news of Virgil Abloh passing away shook the fashion world. One of the most iconic designers of this generation, he was creative director at his own brand, Off-White, and was appointed artistic director for Louis Vuitton Menswear in 2018.
A man with many creative outlets -architect, civil engineer, designer, graphic artist, DJ- Abloh changed the perception of what “luxury fashion” was. He proved that high-end fashion could match with street style and breathe new life into it, and flooded his designs with things that inspired him, including graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture.
Just over 48 hours after the terrible news of his passing broke, there was a Louis Vuitton show scheduled to take place in Miami. The last collections he oversaw for Louis Vuitton Menswear were already presented virtually last June, however, the last will of Abloh and his wife, Shannon, were for these and 10 looks not seen before to be presented on a runway show.
“As a devoted supporter of his community through his charities and passions, [Virgil] was an eternal optimist who believed anything was possible,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO, in an official statement. “In this same spirit, we at Louis Vuitton will proudly continue to celebrate his legacy with a final show in Miami, per his wishes.”
And this the French house did, presenting its latest Spring-Summer 2022 collection at the Marine Stadium with more than 15,000 spectators that joined to celebrate his legacy the best way possible: letting his work speak for itself. The tribute included a three-story tall statue of Virgil Abloh, and at the end of the show there was a beautiful and emotional drone display that wrote across the night sky: “Virgil was here”.
The son of Ghanaian immigrants , Virgil Abloh was born in 1980 near Chicago and raised in Rockford, Illinois. His mother Eunice, a seamstress, taught him the basics of the craft at a young age. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then completed a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. His design concepts caught the eye of Kanye West, who employed him as his artistic director in 2007, then alongside the singer he became an intern at Fendi in Rome in 2009, and made the rounds at Paris Fashion Week.
Abloh created his first label, Pyrex Vision, in 2012. A year later, Off-White was born, a luxury streetwear brand with headquarters in Milan. He wanted the collections to be made in Italy with an American aesthetic: high-end confection alongside familiar streetwear shapes, logo tees and pieces emblazoned with graphics. The first Off-White womenswear line debuted at Paris Fashion Week in 2014 and was selected as a finalist for the coveted LVMH Prize, this was a welcome to the room with all the top buyers and designers of the industry.
Four years later Abloh was named artistic director at Louis Vuitton. “We were a generation that was interested in fashion and weren’t supposed to be there,” he told W when asked about becoming the first black man to design his own line at the French maison.
Many tributes immediately came in from close followers, celebrities and the fashion industry around the world after the news of his passing. Kim Jones, the artistic director of menswear at French fashion house Dior said: “So sad to hear about the passing of dear Virgil, one of the kindest people you could ever meet”. From Italy, the Gucci house took the social media to say Abloh was “an immense inspiration to us all both as a designer and as a person” and added: “He will be deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career,”
“RIP VIRGIL ABLOH. Nobody will overlook the effect you had. God bless you my good friend,” tweeted the French soccer star Kylian Mbappe. And American singer Pharrell Williams wrote on Instagram: “Virgil you have been a sort, beneficent, considerate artistic genius, your work as a human and your work as a religious being will reside perpetually.”
The message posted to his Instagram account read: “For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, 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.”
Abloh is survived by his wife, Sannon, his children Lowe and Grey, his sister, Edwina, and his parents, Nee and Eunice.