Last night it became known that the creative director of the Louis Vuitton men's line and the founder of the Off-White brand, Virgil Abloh, died of a rare cancer – angiosarcoma of the heart. He was 41 years old. The designer hid his diagnosis, so for the general public his death was sudden, and therefore even more shocking. During his lifetime, Abloh's work evoked polar opinions: he was either strongly scolded or almost idolized. But even his critics admitted that Abloh is one of the most popular and influential designers of his generation, who brought hype into a cult and took a fresh look at street fashion. In memory of the designer, they collected his most striking works, quotes and memories of him, and condolences of those who knew Abloh personally.
Virgil Abloh is called a designer, but he himself preferred to call himself an artist. His creative work went far beyond the catwalk – he was a music producer, composer, DJ, architect. Already from this list of professions, one can understand that Abloh was fantastically efficient. Having learned his diagnosis two years ago, he did not slow down the pace of work and until recently he regularly appeared in public, so that many are even perplexed when the designer still found time to deal with medical procedures.
Abloh was born to an immigrant family from Ghana in Rockford, Illinois. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering and architecture, and began his career in the music business – he worked in Kanye West's team as the creative director of his advertising agency Donda, and then as the art director of Kanye's joint album with Jay-Z Watch the Throne.
Kanye West and Virgil Abloh
At the same time, Abloh had the idea to create his own brand. So in 2013, the Off-White brand appears, for which things will soon be chased by hypebeasts from all over the world. Collaborations will become regular in Abloh's work, and these alliances will arise in a variety of areas. The designer reimagined Nike sneakers, produced furniture for Ikea, and collaborated with neo-concept artist Jenny Holzer.
Virgil Abloh collection for Ikea
2018 was a year of real triumph for Abloh. He became the first black designer to be named Creative Director for Louis Vuitton (Abloh took over the menswear business), named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, and Off-White overtook Gucci as the most popular brand in the world in the ranking of analytical platform Lyst.
Abloh's fashion has always bordered on art, be it variations of prints on clothes or decorations around the catwalk. They often looked like completely independent installations, which were borrowed from some museum of modern art.
Virgil Abloh with models at the Off-White show
Bella Hadid and Mariacarla Boscone at the Off-White show
Virgil Abloh at the Off-White show
When talking about his collections, Abloh always noted that he tried to do things that could impress his seventeen-year-old.
I always try to prove to my 17-year-old self that I can do creative work, which, as it seemed to me then, was impossible,
At the Louis Vuitton show
In the fashion industry, the so-called 3% designer approach has often become a topic of discussion. The idea is that you can create a new design by changing the original by three percent. His most recognizable trick is to add some kind of quotation mark, which should create an ironic context. For example, for Off-White, Abloh designed cowboy boots labeled “Walking” and a hex nut ring engraved with “Hex nut ring” engraved.
Because of this game of postmodernism, Abloh was often accused of plagiarism and stealing ideas, but the designer himself believed that this was rooted in the spirit of street fashion, which, in his opinion, did not necessarily include only T-shirts, hoodies and sneakers.
Virgil Abloh and Bella Hadid
Street fashion in my understanding is associated with Duchamp. This is the idea of readymade (a technique in art, in which some objects or texts, originally created not for artistic purposes, are transformed by the author into his own work. – Ed.). It's like hip hop. These are samples. I take James Brown, cut a record of him and create a new song. I take Ikea and present it in my own way. This is streetwear 10.0 – the logic that you can refer to an object, a brand, or whatever. It's Campbell's Warhol soup cans or Marilyn Monroe's portraits
– Abloh said about his approach.
Virgil Abloh with Gigi and Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss at the Off-White show
The designer even placed the inscription on Hailey Bieber's wedding dress, which he created for her wedding to Justin Bieber. The veil was decorated with the common phrase from the oath: “Until death do us part.”
Justin and Hailey Bieber
Abloh often turned to pop culture, dedicating collections to celebrities such as Princess Diana or Michael Jackson. The latter was his real idol and not only as a musician – Virgil said that Michael was “the most important person who ever created innovative menswear.”
Off-White collection dedicated to Princess Diana
While experts were seriously analyzing almost every stitch on Abloh's clothes, trying to catch him again in the hack, the designer himself regarded his work as a great artistic experiment.
Fashion is a kind of joke. I'm not too stuck in clothes. For me, this is one big art project, just a canvas showing that fashion should have a brand behind which there is someone who cares about different contexts.
I don't come up with ideas in a test tube, I come up with ideas by breaking test tubes. This is how I have always been.
My goal was to create a dialogue between high fashion and streetwear,
– said the designer about his work.
Bella Hadid at the Off-White show
Today, Abloh's work is remembered by many of his colleagues and friends in the fashion industry.
Virgil, I’m at a loss for words. The world has lost a fashion superstar. Innovator. A creator who will be included in history textbooks. I think of all your loved ones on this tragic day. Love Donatella
– wrote Donatella Versace.
Naomi Campbell, Donatella Versace and Virgil Abloh
I'm at a loss … He meant something to everyone. It was his magical power. He made every person he met feel special, whoever he was. An unearthly light came from you. You have always encouraged everyone to keep working hard and being kind. I'm devastated. You will be remembered
– wrote the model Bella Hadid, who often took part in Abloh's shows.
Bella Hadid and Virgil Abloh
Me and all the people who are lucky enough to work with him will miss him a lot and appreciate those moments. I imagine him now as our Mickey Mouse, who is forever with us, forever adored, forever magical, forever leading us with this special fun. Rest in peace, my friend. You are so loved. As we always said … I'll see you somewhere, soon,
– wrote her sister Gigi Hadid, who also often worked with Abloh.
Gigi Hadid and Virgil Abloh
I sat in shock for the last hours, because we spoke yesterday. I just can't use the past tense to describe you. You are probably rebuilding the gates of Heaven right now. I pray for your family. Rest in peace, mighty king,
– wrote Amina Muaddi.
Amina Muaddi and Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh is survived by a wife and two children. He did not live only two days before his new show. On November 30, the spring-summer collection of Louis Vuitton, which Abloh created, was to be presented in Miami. As it became known, the concern LVMH decided not to cancel the defile – the show will be held in memory of him under the name “Virgil was here”.