Home Lifestyle Influential Louis Vuitton And Off-White Designer Virgil Abloh, Dies at 41

Influential Louis Vuitton And Off-White Designer Virgil Abloh, Dies at 41

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Influential Louis Vuitton And Off-White Designer Virgil Abloh, Dies at 41

The fashion industry has lost a talented, unique, and boundary-pushing force with the news that Louis Vuitton and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh has died aged 41. The African-American talent was privately suffering from rare cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, it has been revealed in the wake of his death.

41-year-old Ghanaian-American designer Virgil Abloh has died after a 2 year battle with a rare form of cancer, a statement from his associates LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said on Sunday. Abloh, founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White, and artistic director of men’s wear at French fashion house Louis Vuitton leaves his wife Shannon, and 2 children – Lowe and Grey. Chairman and CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnault said in a statement, “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.” “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.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh,” a post on his Instagram account read.

“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.”

Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian American who had been the creative director to his friend and collaborator Kanye West, was that rare thing in fashion: a name-brand designer whose influence was felt outside of fashion’s usual self-selected niches, a veritable pop-culture icon. Some of this was due to his designs, whose flourishes — his trademark Off-White™ logo, his winky use of quotation marks splattered on clothes, shoes, and accessories, the hazard-yellow band liberally applied to handbags and underwear alike — made them instantly recognizable. But it owed just as much to his insistence on remaining culturally omnivorous: DJ-ing, curating, collaborating (with Nike, Takashi Murakami, Levi’s, and Ikea), and generally refusing to be limited to the usual avenues of luxury fashion. He was not only the rare American to succeed at a major European house but even rarer, a Black designer in a still predominantly white milieu. 

His first work, a printed take on a Ralph Lauren rugby top, showed his desire to combine art and fashion, and in 2013 he founded his own label, Off-White. As an African-American, the name was a nod to the bias felt by people of colour.

Characterised by a subversive outlook, his work for the label often had words written on pieces or were finished with cable ties. He had “Air” written on Nike Air trainers, for example, and he once put an image of the Mona Lisa on a T-shirt, drawing accusations of infringing trademark.

Regardless of the controversy, Abloh won a devoted following for his work, which straddled streetwear and high-end, and in 2018, he was appointed as the menswear designer for French Maison Louis Vuitton, making him the first person of colour to hold the position. That same year, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Abloh was also long-time creative director for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, as the pair served fashion internships together at Fendi. As the news broke of Abloh’s death, Ye dedicated his Sunday Service to his friend. A choir sang Adele’s song Easy On Me, which was streamed live on dondalive.com.

Abloh designed the album covers for Ye’s and Jay-Z’s joint album Watch the Throne, as well as Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

At Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, he was able to flex his designer muscles, using the skill of the house to execute some truly dazzling work that questioned the rigid lines of menswear. He introduced oversized layers, often worn with sharply tailored jackets, and dressed his models in durags and trilby hats. He put models in skirts and added pleated panels to shorts and trousers. Waists became defined with tight belts, and shoulders took on exaggerated width through padding.

Skilled at grabbing headlines, Abloh knew that a bag made to look like a plane, for example, would guarantee worldwide coverage, yet he was still a clever and subtle designer who brought streetwear culture to the hallowed halls of high fashion.

It is hard to think of a designer who more distilled his or her moment — the frantic pace of the digital, the immediate accessibility of references, the fading stakes of soi-disant authenticity, the collapsed divide between celebrity culture and street culture — than he did. But he rushed toward it all with a generosity that’s rare. Bruce Pask, the men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, reminded me how Abloh, for his first show at Louis Vuitton, invited not only the press but also a phalanx of students and fans to line the runway: If he had made it, he was bringing everybody with him. His was a dream without precedent, but his alchemical mix of enthusiasm and eye carried the day. “I’ve never heard Virgil say a negative thing in my whole life,” his friend and collaborator Justin Saunders, of the website JJJJound, told GQ Style. “What I knew about creativity was saying no to things, but he’s on the opposite flip. It’s like when Virgil convinced me to be a DJ,” Saunders said. “I still don’t know how to use a mixer. I said to Virgil, ‘I don’t know how to DJ,’ and he said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Let’s just go have some fun.’ And then eventually we were DJ-ing at Coachella.”

Author: Linda .R. Jones

London, UK

lindarj83@gmail.com

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