Virgil Abloh: Off-White designer dies at 41

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh has died after suffering from cancer, it has been announced.

The 41-year-old, who was the creative director for Louis Vuitton and Off-White, had cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of the disease, according to an announcement on his official Instagram page.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh,” it said. “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.

“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”

Abloh redefined the idea of the modern fashion designer, adding DJ, artist and furniture designer to his creative arsenal. After training as an architect, he started designing clothes in 2012. His first design, a screenprint on a Ralph Lauren rugby shirt, set the tone for his future work: a postmodern art stunt cum fashion piece. Collaborating with everyone from Nike to Ikea, Perrier and Mercedes-Benz, he took fashion into arenas where it had not gone before, cross-pollinating it with other fields. The fashion purists were not amused; he told the Observer in 2019, “When I was showing in fashion week, people were saying, ‘That’s not fashion.’” In 2013 he founded his own label, Off-White, and was appointed head of menswear design at Louis Vuitton in 2018. He was the first black designer at Vuitton and the most visible black designer in fashion.

Abloh was also a hugely visible figure in rap, designing the album covers for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s joint album Watch the Throne, as well as West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy among others and covers for Pop Smoke, Westside Gunn, Octavian and Lil Uzi Vert. He worked closely with West before becoming a fashion designer. In an interview, the rapper had said of Abloh: “I have all these ideas and Virgil is able to architect them because he is an actual architect.”

Below the post announcing the news of his death, fashion designer Marc Jacobs wrote: “I am so sorry to read this. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. May you rest in peace and power, dear Virgil.” Dior’s Kim Jones added: “Love you always, Virgil, so shocking.” Chance the Rapper said: “Jesus.”

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, owner of both Off-White and Louis Vuitton said in a statement: “Virgil was not only a genius designer – a visionary – he was also a man with a beautiful soul and a great wisdom.”

He is survived by his wife Shannon and his children Lowe and Grey.

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