Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton and founder of Off-White, died on Sunday at the age of 41. The news was announced on Abloh’s Instagram. “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend,” the post stated. “For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma,” the post continued. “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.” Louis Vuitton’s parent company, LVMH, confirmed the news, with chairman Bernard Arnault stating, “We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.”
Abloh, who was the first Black man to be named an artistic director for Louis Vuitton, was also a longtime collaborator and friend of Kanye West. Born in Rockford, Illinois, to Ghanian immigrant parents, Abloh obtained degrees in civil engineering and architecture before meeting West at the age of 22 when both were interning at Fendi. Abloh would go on to become West’s artistic director, and was instrumental in shaping West’s style and image, as well as launching West’s creative agency, Donda. A prolific creative who in addition to his visionary work in fashion and menswear also worked as a DJ and furniture designer, Abloh described himself as a “maker,” as opposed to a designer.
Abloh founded Off-White in 2013, and this past July, LVMH acquired a majority stake in the company. In his work at Louis Vuitton as well as at Off-White, he carved a wholly original path in the fashion industry and was one of the first to bring streetwear to the luxury market. “Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist of the moment,” said chief Louis Vuitton executive Michael Burke in 2018, when Abloh was first named artistic director of menswear for the brand. In 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented an exhibit of Abloh’s work as “a genre-bending artist and designer” called Figures of Speech. “Abloh pioneers a practice that cuts across media and connects visual artists, musicians, graphic designers, fashion designers, and architects,” the museum wrote at the time.
Abloh is survived by his wife, Shannon Abloh; his children, Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh; his sister, Edwina Abloh; and his parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh.