Designer Virgil Abloh Passes Away At Age 41
In a breaking story, fashion designer and executive Virgil Abloh has died today (November 28). Louis Vuitton, where the 41-year-old served as Artistic Director of menswear, confirmed the news across social channels. According to the statement, the founder of Off-White had privately been battling cancer. He is survived by his wife Shannon and two children.
Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said, “We are all shocked by this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer and a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow and we are all thinking of his loved ones on the passing of their husband, father, brother, son and friend.”
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Abloh, the son of Ghanaian immigrants, was raised in Rockford, Illinois. As a Civil Engineering graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison, he pivoted to fashion in the mid-2000s. He teamed with Kanye West’s manager, Don C., to launch a Chicago retail store, RSVP Gallery. Around that same period, he and West interned at Fendi together, each earning a reported $500 per month. By the early 2010s, West tapped Virgil to be the Creative Director of Donda, and the Artistic Director for his Watch The Throne album with JAY-Z.
In 2013, Abloh went out on his own with Off-White, a brand. He based the company in Milan, Italy, and quickly transcended the sometimes disparaging term “streetwear.” Stores opened internationally, while Abloh extended his talents to furniture collaborations with IKEA, charitable and social work with Planned Parenthood, and designing for Serena Williams’ 2018 US Open athletic apparel. Meanwhile, Abloh was also an aspiring DJ and musical curator.
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In 2018, Abloh was appointed AD for Louis Vuitton—becoming the first Black person to sit in the role. In 2019, Griselda name-checked Abloh and Off-White’s designs in their Shady Records single, “Dr. Birds.” Later, Virgil would design the cover for Westside Gunn’s Pray For Paris album. That same year, Abloh partnered with graffiti legend Futura 2000 on some designs, which had gained distribution to Saks Fifth Avenue and other department stores. Earlier this year, Louis Vuitton purchased a 60% stake in Off-White, with Virgil retaining the rest. The development came as Abloh and Off-White were under legal fire for allegedly stealing designs, including from Hip-Hop veteran April Walker and her Walker Wear brand.
This month, Kanye West spoke about Virgil Abloh during his Drink Champs, admitting that he was jealous about the LV appointment. Ye, who argued he had first empowered Virgil, apparently felt he should have been given the position, especially as a one-time mentor to Virgil.
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“This is a perfect time for me to come back, ’cause you gotta understand I was Ye. And then they started making more Ye’s. Watch this: Ye is like this encompassing thing of fashion, bars, beats, production, videos, [interviews]. Then what happens? You get [A$AP] Rocky dressin’ better than me. Tyler [The Creator] making better videos. Drake, more records. Virgil, higher position in fashion. J. Cole, more backpack. Kendrick [Lamar], better bars, and stuff. So I literally had to go like ‘Thanos’—and I don’t have to be the villain, but when I went and did the Donda thing, Ye returned. And everybody had to sit back and watch the real leader. They talk about GOATs and this and that, I affect people 20 years older than me; I affect people 20 years younger than me. And that’s what it factually is. You gotta know who you is, and you gotta tell people who you are,” West said in the high-profile interview. The two had reconciled publicly following years of reported distance. TMZ reports that sources tell them that West was aware of Virgil’s private health battle.
Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Virgil Abloh.