Virgil Abloh, Off-White Founder and Louis Vuitton Menswear Artistic Director, Dies at 41

Virgil Abloh, founder of the fashion company Off-White and menswear artistic director at Louis Vuitton, died on Sunday following a private, two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer. He was 41.

Abloh’s death was first announced by his labels over social media.

“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,” wrote LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault. “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.”

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother and friend,” reads a statement on Abloh’s official Instagram.

According to the statement, Abloh elected to keep his cancer private after being diagnosed in 2019, undergoing treatments while continuing to work as one of the fashion industry’s leading voices.

“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.”

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Born to Ghanaian immigrant parents on Sept. 30, 1980, in Rockford, Ill., Abloh studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2002. He went on to earn a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2006.

Following his education, Abloh met Kanye West, who would become one of his first major collaborators. In 2011, West named Abloh creative director of his company Donda. During his tenure, Abloh worked as artistic director on some of the most popular album art of the 21st century, including West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” “Yeezus” and “Watch the Throne.” Abloh also created the covers for A$AP Rocky’s “LONG. LIVE. A$AP,” Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv Is Rage 2,” Kid Cudi’s “Wzrd,” 2 Chainz’s “Based on a T.R.U. Story” and more.

Abloh founded the fashion house Off-White in 2012, serving as CEO until his death. His radical approach to clothing is highly responsible for the bridge between the worlds of street wear and luxury fashion that has emerged over the past decade. Off-White launched Abloh to an even more prominent position on the global stage, attracting the attention of Louis Vuitton. The storied fashion house signed Abloh to serve as its menswear artistic director in 2018, a role he fulfilled through the remainder of his life. Abloh is the first African-American to head the house’s menswear line.

“The first thing I am going to do is define new codes,” Abloh told The New York Times following his appointment in 2018. “My muse has always been what people actually wear, and I am really excited to make a luxury version of that.”

Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought a majority stake in Off-White last year. In July, Abloh took on a position at LVMH that allowed him to work across the group’s 75 brands, becoming the most powerful Black executive in the history of the premiere luxury group.

Beyond fashion, Abloh was also well-known for his work as a DJ and furniture designer. He is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe and Grey, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh and numerous friends and colleagues around the world.

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