Designers like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons have drawn analogies to his wide-ranging approach. Clothes served as status symbols for him.
It’s been two years since the death of Virgil Abloh, the groundbreaking Black designer whose rise to the top of the industry redefined the boundaries of what was possible in fashion, and he passed away on Sunday in Chicago. He was 41 years old.
The family confirmed his death.
An influential fashion thinker and designer, Mr. Abloh collaborated with a wide range of businesses from Nike to Evian and was compared to Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, among others, for his wide-ranging and sometimes contentious approach to design.
When it came to designers, Virgil Abloh changed the definition of “fashion” and what brands sought in a designer. He also bridged the gap between hypebeast culture and the world of luxury.
At the crossroads of art, music, politics, and philosophy, his outfits were more than just clothes. Irony, allusion, and the self-aware wink (as well as the digital world) were his go-to tools for re-contextualizing the everyday and imbuing it with cultural currency.
“Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” his wife quoted him as saying in an Instagram post. He believed deeply, she wrote, “in the power of art to inspire future generations.”
“Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” It was said by Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in a press release.
Mr. Abloh was a workaholic who worked long hours and was also a DJ and a furniture designer. He seemed to enjoy having his hands in as many pies as possible. Indeed, he didn’t refer to himself as a “designer,” but as a “maker.” This was because he had an omnivorous mind that was always coming up with new ideas.
Just last July, he had been promoted to a new job at LVMH that would let him work with all of the group’s 75 brands. This made him the most powerful Black person in the world’s most powerful luxury group.
It was a job for someone who didn’t fit into the typical mould. They were more interested in making their own path in an old industry than following anyone else’s.
Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke: “Virgil is very good at making bridges between old and new.” Abloh, who was hired by the luxury brand, is very good at making bridges between old and new.
Ikram Goldman, the owner of a boutique in Chicago, called him a “hero.”
Abloh was born on September 30, 1980, to Ghanaian immigrants named Nee and Eunice Abloh. He grew up with skate culture and hip-hop all around him.
Because his mother was a seamstress, he learned how to sew from her. Even though he didn’t study fashion, he learned how to sew from her.
Kanye West was 22 when Mr. Abloh met him. Relationship: In 2009, Mr. West teamed up with Louis Vuitton for a sneaker project and went to Paris for fashion week. He was the talk of the town and became a big star. They were all in a group picture outside of a show when it went viral on the internet. It was even made fun of on “South Park.”
There was no one talking about streetwear at dinners after shows. People said things like, “Fashion needs something new.” It’s not moving. What’s the new thing? In the future, Mr. Abloh told GQ that that was when he came up with his ideas. That was also when he and Mr. West began a six-month internship at Fendi, where they worked for $500 a month and learned about the business from the ground up.
Then, in 2010, he became the creative director of Donda, Mr. West’s creative incubator, where he helped make Mr. West’s ideas come to life. Pusha T, a rapper, called his laptop “a library of everything that was beautiful and relevant.”
Been Trill, a DJ and creative group, was born two years later when Mr. Abloh and two other men he met through Donda (Mr. West’s creative incubator) teamed up to make the group. In the beginning, it was an art project with clothes called Pyrex Vision. Then it turned into a brand called Off-White, which is what Mr. Abloh called “a twisty, collaborative creative journey.” He also used a lot of quotation marks and “cheat codes,” which are the idea that you can change an existing design just a little, and it will still be good.
In the beginning, he told GQ that “I was very clear: This isn’t a streetwear brand. This isn’t me. This isn’t Off-White.” This isn’t a brand that is used today. You can say “X,” “Y,” “Z,” and you get this whole sense of awe and respect. This is the same way.
As a result, he applied for the LVMH prize for young designers, held his catwalk presentations in Paris, and designed both women’s and men’s clothing.
Some designers thought his work was more “copying” than “original,” but his influence was undeniable because to his early and insightful adoption of Instagram. His work received mixed reviews and raised eyebrows among the design world (at his death he had 6.5 million followers). For him, rather than going to the establishment, going straight to customers was a better strategy. For Louis Vuitton, this happened in 2018. Mr. Abloh was named one of Time magazine’s most influential individuals of the year just a few months later.
He was momentarily suspended in 2019 due to “exhaustion,” which he had been flying back and forth between Illinois, where his family was still living, and Paris. Despite the fact that it kept him confined to a single location, he didn’t appear to be affected in any way.
A year after the social justice protests of 2020, he founded the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, earning $1 million to promote Black students in fashion design at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. A hint of LVMH’s confidence in Off-future White’s came with the company’s recent acquisition of a 60 percent interest. In May, he made Spike Lee the focus of Cannes Film Festival when he outfitted him in brilliant pink and sunset-toned suits for his role as Grand Jury president.
His family includes his wife Shannon Abloh, his daughters Lowe and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and his parents. He also leaves behind a legacy he established at his debut Louis Vuitton show, which drew Kanye West, Rihanna, ASAP Rocky, and 1,500 students to the gardens of the Palais Royale.
This is a room full of people who look like me,” he told the New York Times in an interview. This is something you’ve never seen in fashion before. People’s tastes have evolved, and with that, the fashion industry. It was all his doing.
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