Breaking Fashion News: Virgil Abloh Transitions

Image courtesy of LVMH

Acclaimed fashion designer Virgil Abloh died in Chicago this past Sunday. After a two-year battle, Abloh died of cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Though Abloh popularity and ascent in the fashion industry was very short, he made a major impact in the industry by being one of the few black fashion designers to helm a major European fashion house. At the time of his death, Abloh was the creative director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear, as well as the creative director of his own fashion brand, Off-White. Abloh was also a frequent collaborator with Nike and Avian.

In July, Abloh was promoted to a new position with the auspices of LVMH, giving him the latitude to work across LVMH’s 75 brands. This position made Abloh the most powerful and prolific black executive in the fashion industry

Abloh helped usher in an era of fashion, a fashion that blended street style with luxury. As a proponent of this new hybrid, Abloh’s fashion collections not only spoke to what modern consumers wanted to wear but blended the worlds of art, commerce, political thought, and diversity.

“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,” Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said in a statement.

Born to Ghanian parents in Rockford, Illinois, Abloh studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received his master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Image courtesy of

Abloh’s entrée into the fashion industry began with meeting Kanye West. West started a sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2009.  Abloh was on West’s creative team for the Louis Vuitton sneaker collection. West’s sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton became the hit of the fashion season.

“Streetwear wasn’t on anyone’s radar, but the sort of chatter at dinners after shows was like ‘Fashion needs something new. It’s stagnant. What’s the new thing going to be?’ That was the timeline on which I was crafting my ideas,” Mr. Abloh later told GQ, as reported in That was also when he and Mr. West began a six-month internship at Fendi, making $500 a month, and learning the business from the inside out.

 Off-White spring 2021 Images courtesy of

In 2010 Abloh became the creative director of Wes’s Donda fashion incubator. And through a series of introductions and connections, Abloh launched his fashion brand, Off-White, which started as an art project. Off-White was a combination of what Abloh called “cheating codes” and the “three-percent rule,” which is taking existing silhouettes and fashion rules and re-interpreting those elements to create something seems new and original.

Though Off-White was originally deemed a streetwear brand by the fashion industry, Abloh vehemently fought to get Off-White categorized as a luxury brand. “I was adamant: This isn’t a streetwear brand, Abloh told GQ. This isn’t a contemporary brand. This is designer, just the same way that X, Y, Z are designer, where you say their name and it carries this whole esteem and emotion to it.”

Abloh uniquely understood that if consumers flocked to his collections, the fashion industry elites would follow. And that is exactly what happened!!

Louis Vuitton men’s spring 2021 image courtesy of

In 2018 Louis Vuitton named him creative director of Louis Vuitton and in that same year Time magazine named him one of the most influential people. According to The New York Times, “earlier this year LVMH increased its stake in Off-White to 60 percent, a sign that the brand had the backing to move to the next level.”

Virgil Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon and their four children. He was 41 years old at the time of his death.

—William S. Gooch

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