Who Was Virgil Abloh? Louis Vuitton's First Black Artistic Director and Creator of Off-White Label Dies of Cancer

Abloh He first shot to fame after collaboration with rapper Kanye West after the pair interned together for the LVMH brand Fendi in 2009.

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Virgil Abloh, the Maverick fashion designer and the creator of Louis Vuitton's Off-White label, died on Sunday of cancer, the fashion house announced. He was 41. The trailblazing artist had been privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer, for two years, said parent company, LVMH.

Coming from a humble background in Ghana, Abloh rose to fame as one of the top designers globally within a short span of time. He came to prominence as Kanye West's creative director but later made history as the first African-American to lead Louis Vuitton. Interestingly, Abloh had no formal fashion training and learnt everything from his mother.

Gone Too Soon

Virgil Abloh

Abloh had joined Louis Vuitton in March 2018 and founded the label Off-White, which LVMH took a 60 percent stake in, about five years earlier. His death was announced by the luxury brand on Sunday. "We are all shocked after this terrible news," company CEO Bernard Arnault said in a statement on Twitter. "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."

Abloh's death comes as major shock to the entire fashion fraternity given that he was not only a star in his own rights but also an inspiration to millions who possess the dream of becoming a fashion designer but fail to get formal training.

Born in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois, Abloh earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison and completed a master´s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, according to his online bio.

Abloh had no formal fashion training besides his mother's instruction, but went on to become a widely-praised fashion trailblazer whose redefined fashion.

Short but Eventful Life

The iconic designer had never gone to a fashion school. However, he had sustained an interest in the fashion industry while helping his Ghanaian seamstress mother sew in their Illinois home. From there Abloh picked up everything and went on to become a start in almost no time.

Virgil Abloh with Kanye West
Virgil Abloh with Kanye West Twitter

He first shot to fame after collaboration with rapper Kanye West after the pair interned together for the LVMH brand Fendi in 2009. However, bigger things were to follow. Having worked as a DJ and artist, Abloh revolutionized the fashion world after being hired by Louis Vuitton which saw fresh, modern designs such as streetwear coming to the catwalk.

In 2012, Abloh founded the haute streetwear label Off-White, and in 2018 he created history as Louis Vuitton's first Black artistic director. With these groundbreaking positions, he became one of the most powerful Black men in the fashion industry.

Even then, he was continued designing wardrobes for West and other celebrities like Kid Cudi. Abloh's work with West served as a blueprint for future border-crossing collaborations that married high and low. With Nike, he partnered his Off-White label for a line of frenzy-inducing sneakers remixed with a variety of styles and Helvetica fonts.

Abloh also designed furniture for IKEA, refillable bottles for Evian and Big Mac cartons for McDonald's. His work was exhibited at the Louvre, the Gagosian and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh Twitter

News of his death sent to fashion industry into mourning, with tributes pouring in from all corners. "Virgil, I am lost for words," fashion designer Donatella Versace wrote on Instagram, among the scores of celebrities who reacted to news of Abloh's death.

"The world has lost a fashion superstar," she wrote. "A creator for the history books. I am thinking of all your loved ones on this tragic day."

"For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma," a message on Abloh's Instagram said.

"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."

Abloh was survived by his wife Shannon Sundberg, who he married in 2009, along with the couple's two children Lowe and Grey.

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