On November 28, Virgil Abloh passed away as announced by his wife Shannon Abloh through an Instagram post. He was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton‘s menswear collection from 2018. In the same year, Time magazine named Virgil Abloh as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2012, he founded the Milan-based label Off-White, a fashion house where street fashion meets their luxury counterparts.
He was most known as the barrier-breaking Black designer, the first person of African descent to lead Louis Vuitton’s menswear line. His held his first Louis Vuitton show in the gardens of the Palais Royale in front of an audience that included Kanye West, Rihanna and ASAP Rocky.
Virgil Abloh died at a young age of 41 after battling with a rare cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, for two years in private. Virgil Abloh, as written by his wife, “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. -Shannon Abloh
In the memory of Virgil Abloh, let’s revisit some monumental moments of his career.
Virgil Abloh received his bachelor degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2002. He received his Master of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2006. During his study, he came to learn about the architect Rem Koolhaas who once worked on runway collections for Prada. This inspired Abloh to pursue his passion in fashion.
After graduating from university, Abloh had an internship at Fendi where he met Kanye West in 2009. During this intern, Kanye West received an offer for a sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton. The artist then included Abloh in his creative team. Together they headed off to Paris and went viral overnight after their photo with several other collaborators outside a show was satirized on “South Park”.
The collaboration became Abloh’s cornerstone in fashion career as a year later he became creative director of Donda, Kanye West’s creative incubator.
Abloh and Murakami first met more than a decade ago when the latter worked on an album cover for Kanye West while Abloh was the rapper’s creative director. Ever since, they had been hitting off on a series of collaboration exhibitions with their own signature icons.
In a 2018 interview with AD, Abloh and Murakami talked about their interest towards each other which later sparked multiple collaborations in the years to come. “The inspiration was more like a study of our time and our identities. Both of us have a desire to exist and participate in the now, and I think this exhibition is representative of that,” Abloh said.
Between the two, they both reject exclusivism in the art world. They ultimately share a mission of synthesizing culture and erasing the lines between high and low.
“Virgil and I played constant catch with our ideas, and my studio Kaikai Kiki produced the actual works,” remarked Murakami. He continued, “We are both so busy that our ideas always come to us last-minute. This exhibition has been quite a feat to pull off.”
Abloh described his collaborations with Murakami as “Just existing”. He explained, “We are both so busy that our ideas always come to us last-minute. This exhibition has been quite a feat to pull off.”
In 2020, after George Floyd’s social justice movement, Abloh established the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund. He raised $1 million for the scholarships which will be managed by the Fashion Scholarship Fund. The fund will be used to assist Black students who are willing to learn about fashion.
Abloh has always been a warrior throughout his life. And his scholarship fund is just an adjunct of his passionate mission towards equality. In his first runaway with Louis Vuitton, Abloh said, “There are people around this room who look like me. You never saw that before in fashion. The people have changed, and so fashion has to.”
Here’s to Virgil Abloh’s continuous legacy and the succeeding generation to come!
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