Courtesy of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
- Fashion designer Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and artistic director for men’s at Louis Vuitton, died on Sunday. He was 41.
- Abloh had been undergoing treatment for a rare and aggressive cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, for more than two years, but didn’t disclose the diagnosis to the public, according to an announcement from Off-White.
- Abloh wasn’t formally trained in fashion; he had a civil engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin and master’s in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. But he has had a profound influence on today’s fashion and culture, even beyond the streetwear designs he is best known for.
The fashion world didn’t always know what to make of Virgil Abloh or his designs, but that only seemed to fuel his success.
While he is best known for his work in apparel, Abloh’s work spanned several disciplines, including music and art; his graduate architecture studies featured curriculum developed by Mies van der Rohe, according to a press release from LVMH.
Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh in 2012 began as a work of art dubbed “Pyrex Vision,” and the next year debuted as a branded runway collection during Paris Fashion Week. In 2015 Off-White was a finalist for the LVMH Prize. Earlier this year LVMH acquired a majority stake in the brand; previously Farfetch had acquired it when it took over parent New Guards Group.
Abloh’s work with LVMH has been longstanding, and he was appointed men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton in 2018.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news,” LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault said in a statement. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, 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 after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend.”
While he made his name using fashion as a medium, through Off-White and his work for Louis Vuitton, Abloh’s contribution to contemporary culture is greater than fashion, according to Thomai Serdari, professor of luxury marketing and branding at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“He is the first celebrity designer to truly practice design as an interdisciplinary field — what design truly is — and managed to communicate this through his own work and the variety of projects he was involved in,” Serdari said by email. “In other words, he used the platforms that had welcomed him to re-educate the public about the power and value of good design.”
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