It’s been a year to the day since the passing of Virgil Abloh, who died after a private battle with cardiac angiosarcoma – a rare form of cancer. At the time of his death, Abloh was 41 years old and known in every corner of the world as one of the men who changed fashion forever. He was a trailblazer whose impact on fashion will be seen and felt for years to come.
Abloh was best known for his work at Louis Vuitton, Nike and Off-White, his work not only changing the way we look at design today but paving the way for a multitude of designers to think outside of their boundaries. Abloh brought streetwear and sneaker culture to the famed couture houses of Paris, reconstructing grailed streetwear with couture techniques.
In 2009 Virgil Abloh and his close friend Kanye West together began internships at the Italian label Fendi. For the Ghanaian American designer, it was the beginning of a career that would transform fashion altogether. Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton said to The New York Times, “I was impressed with how Abloh and West brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way. Virgil could create a metaphor and a new vocabulary to describe something as old-school as Fendi. I have been following his career ever since.”
In 2012 Abloh launched his first brand Pyrex Vision, based in New York. Purchasing Ralph Lauren’s deadstock flannel shirts for $40 each, the designer screen printed them with Pyrex and the number 23, a homage to Michael Jordan, his childhood hero. The shirts would go on to sell for $550 a pop.
A year later, in 2013 Abloh shuttered Pyrex and launched Off-White, a multi-platform endeavour based in Milan. It was here that Abloh would combine and create his ideas of streetwear, art, luxury, music, and travel. The designer defined Off-White as “the grey area between black and white the colour Off-White.” Abloh’s famous quotation marks would become a staple from the very beginning of the label.
Between launching Off-White and becoming a runner-up for the LVMH prize, Abloh launched a womenswear line for his brand. In 2017 the designer struck a partnership with Nike, where he would reimagine 10 iconic sneaker silhouettes and adorn them with a safety tag around the laces. The limited-edition sneakers were a massive hit on the streetwear scene and Abloh along with Nike held workshops throughout the year accompanied by additional releases.
The biggest move came in 2018 when Abloh was named as artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. Abloh assumed the role of his mentor Kim Jones. The designer said, “it is an honour for me to accept this position. I find the heritage and creative integrity of the house are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times.”
In his time at the famed label, Abloh rewrote the codes of fashion, bringing streetwear to luxury, and making Louis Vuitton relevant to a younger generation with high spending. His time at the label is marked with fun and exciting shows, where he presented fun and exciting shows, where he presented fun collections, and even transformed Louis Vuitton’s bags.
In late 2020 Abloh announced that he had raised $1 million to support Black Fashion students through his Post-Modern scholarship fund. The designer explained that he had always been passionate about giving the next generation the kind of foundation for success that he enjoyed.