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Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh Dies of Cancer at 41

Virgil Abloh, the founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, has died from cancer at the age of 41.

One of the most influential designers of his generation, Abloh had been privately battling the disease for several years, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said in a statement on Sunday. The designer died in hospital in Houston, Tx., on Sunday, according to sources familiar with the matter.

“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,” Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, said in the statement.

“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,” he added.

Abloh’s family posted a message to his Instagram account.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues,” it said.

“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. 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.

“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil 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,” the statement said.

Abloh’s shocking death comes two days before he was due to stage a show in Miami featuring his spring 2022 Vuitton men’s wear collection alongside 10 new looks created for the occasion. He posted a teaser for the show to his Instagram account just four days ago with the comment: “Miami, I have an idea…”

Officials at Vuitton could not immediately be reached to determine whether the event will go ahead. The show was to coincide with the official opening in the Miami Design District of Vuitton’s first-ever freestanding store devoted to Abloh’s men’s collection.

Davide De Giglio, chairman and CEO of Off-White’s parent company New Guards Group, and Andrea Grilli, CEO of Off-White, said in a joint statement: “Virgil was a genius, a visionary but most of all he was family. There are no words to describe the loss that his passing leaves in our lives. His legend, his love and his spirit will remain with us forever. Thank you for changing our lives, Virgil. Rest in power, brother.”

The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) also lamented his passing.

“Virgil Abloh was a visionary fashion designer. Driven by great creativity, he renewed the codes of fashion, founded an incredibly successful house and brought all his talent and keen sense of innovation to Louis Vuitton. But above all, he was an exceptional man through his humanity, his openness to others, his generosity of heart and his willingness to break down barriers,” FHCM president Ralph Toledano said in a statement.

“The CFDA mourns the loss of our esteemed member of the board and longtime CFDA designer Virgil Abloh. Virgil changed the landscape of American fashion with his groundbreaking Off-White label and broke barriers as the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton. We are thinking of his family and friends during this difficult time,” said CFDA chairman Tom Ford.

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Virgil Abloh. It’s a shock to the entire fashion world,” said François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering.

“Virgil Abloh brought the eyes of a new generation to many creative fields. He contributed to making fashion more open and inclusive. My thoughts are with his family, his loved ones and all his collaborators,” Pinault added.

Gucci’s Alessandro Michele said: “I am deeply moved by the news of Virgil’s passing. The first time I met him I was struck by his gentleness, kindness and simplicity, the latter a quality difficult to find in our world. He will be sorely missed.”

Alexandre Arnault, the son of Bernard Arnault and executive vice president, product and communications at Tiffany & Co., grew close to Abloh when they collaborated on a range of suitcases during his tenure as CEO of Rimowa.

“Virgil Abloh was the essence of modern creativity. It was always a privilege to work with him in many occasions and I was constantly amazed by the amount of groundbreaking ideas coming out of his brain,” Arnault wrote on Instagram.

Portrait of Virgil Abloh, photographed on December 6, 2018.Portrait of Virgil Abloh, photographed on December 6, 2018. Lexie Moreland for WWD

Who is Virgil Abloh?

Born in Rockford, Ill., of Ghanaian parents, Abloh was an artist, architect, engineer, creative director and designer. After earning a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison, he completed a master’s degree in Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Having risen to fame as West’s creative director, Abloh launched his first label, Pyrex Vision, in 2012 with a line of screen-printed Rugby Ralph Lauren flannel shirts. He was also a member of the Been Trill collective alongside Heron Preston and Matthew Williams.

Off-White was launched online in late 2013, holding its first showroom presentation in Paris the following January with designs that merged influences ranging from Bauhaus to sports apparel and Caravaggio. It established the visual signature of the brand: thick diagonal stripes that have become a byword for insider cool.

From the start Abloh made no secret of his ultimate ambition to take the creative reins of a luxury house.

“I have a litany of ideas that bring modern relevance, but also a financial vision, on how these brands can be more successful in the space of luxury,” he told WWD in 2016. “Off-White is sort of my résumé and it’s my laboratory to experiment with these ideas to see which ones are valid.”

He built the label at warp speed, expanding into women’s wear within 18 months of its launch. Off-White made it onto the shortlist of the 2015 edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, crystallizing the advent of streetwear as a credible challenger to the luxury status quo, and cementing close ties to the French group.

Just four years after its launch, Abloh took the helm of the men’s wear division of Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury brand.

SourceWWD.COM

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