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Virgil Abloh: An Influence beyond Fashion

Virgil abloh feature image

“Virgil Abloh had a unique curiosity and passion that inspired his life, his creativity, and his dreams. It is a shock when someone so young and with such powerful talent is suddenly taken from us. My heart goes out to his wife, his children, and all his family whom he loved so much.” – Ralph Lauren

The world was devastated at the demise of Virgil Abloh. The designer, aged 41, was battling a rare form of cancer, known as cardiac angiosarcoma. Fashion and design owe a lot to his relentless curiosity and creativity. During his last days, he held the Artistic Director role at Louis Vuitton and was also the Chief executive officer of the Milan-based fashion house he founded in 2021, Off-White.

Who is Virgil Abloh?

Virgil abloh  tribute statue by LMVH

Abloh preferred to see himself as a “maker” rather than being categorized as a designer or a DJ. As a teenager, he started DJ-ing house parties, moving to co-found Been Trill. It was a DJ and a streetwear collective based in New York. His music was well followed by a lot of people. He has played in prominent music festivals like Lollapalooza, Tomorrowland, and Coachella. In his recent career periods, he also made soundtracks for his runway shows, often releasing them to SoundCloud after the event.

Virgil Abloh learned to sew at a very young age from his mother, who was a seamstress. He was raised in Rockford. He went on to graduate with a Bachelors’s in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). During his time at IIT, he became inspired by a campus building that was designed by Rem Koolhaas, who worked with fashion brands like Prada for runway shows. His first design work was for The Brilliance, a popular blog, making t-shirt designs.

Virgil’s Rise to Fame

Kanye and abloh at the LVMH runway show

Virgil’s career took a turning point when he met Kanye West in 2009 during an internship at Fendi. They started to collaborate and worked on many projects. Abloh and Kanye’s artistic partner launched Don C launched a retail store called RSVP. The store got famous for its interior and the signature apparel they sold. A year later, West appointed Abloh as the creative director for his creative agency, Donda.

With West, he worked on various projects as a creative director like the Jay Z and West album Watch the throne.

Off-White & Virgil’s Mainstream Success

In 2013, Abloh founded his first fashion house with the high-end streetwear brand Off-White. The company was based in Milan, Italy. With the help of the New Guards Group, he launched the brand in various parts of the world like Japan, China, Tokyo, and the United States. The brand had unique identifiers that set it apart from others. This includes quotation marks, zip ties, capital letters, and barricade tape.

He later launched his furniture arm called the Grey Area in Japan. By 2018 the brand had surpassed the likes of GUCCI in sales and sentimental value.

Notable collaborations

off white x nike sneakers

2017 – Partnered with Nike to release revised versions of the company’s best-selling shoes.

2018 – Collaborated with the Swedish furniture company IKEA to design furniture for apartments.

virgil abloh ikea collab

2018 – Appointed as the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, making him the first person of Africa descent to lead the brand’s menswear line.

He also partnered with Rimova, Mercedes Benz, NBA, Levi’s Moncler, Jimmy Choo, Kith, Timberland, and Byredo.

Justin and hailey wedding dress

Abloh also worked on Hailey Bieber’s Off-White wedding dress and veil that read “Till death do us part”.

Directed music video for ASAP Rocky and Lil Uzi Vert’s XO Tour Life.

virgil abloh drake collab plane design

And last but not least, Drake’s plane that he had Abloh customize with an ethereal blue sky and cloud pattern.

Watch Louis Vuitton Tribute to Virgil


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