Over the weekend, the internet was hit with the very sad news that extremely popular fashion designer and the men’s artistic designer for Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, had died at the way too young age of 41. The cause of death was cancer, which was a diagnosis not made public until the time of his death, and it naturally shocked a whole lot of people. To the surprise of no one I’m sure, a whole lot of famous types hopped on social media to publicly grieve a career cut short for the man they likely had no idea was even ill in the first place.
Virgil Abloh’s death was confirmed by a post on his personal Instagram account on November 28th, as well as Louis Vuitton’s Instagram account, and the account for Off-White, the fashion house Virgil founded in 2012. The official statement explains that he was diagnosed in 2019 with cardiac angiosarcoma, which was very aggressive and very rare.
As mentioned in the statement, he is survived by his wife of 11 years, Shannon Abloh, and their two children.
Virgil managed to accomplish more in his short career than most people could in two lifetimes, literally. Because Virgil already had a career mapped out before he got into fashion. He graduated university with a degree in civil engineering, then got his master’s in architecture. But he always was interested in fashion. While at university, he designed t-shirts and wrote a fashion blog. He was born and raised near Chicago, Illinois, which is where he met Kanye West when Virgil was working at a print shop. Virgil and Kanye would later intern at Fendi together, and in 2010, Kanye would ask Virgil to become the creative director for Donda, Kanye’s creative content brand (which he remained until his death yesterday). In 2011, Kanye asked Virgil to act as artistic director for Kanye and Jay Z’s album Watch The Throne. He eventually oversaw the art direction for numerous albums.
He opened Off-White in 2012, which was modern and youthful and featured plenty of avant-garde quotation marks and capitalized letters. Remember Hailey Bieber’s wedding dress with the giant “TILL DEATH DO US PART” on the back of the train? That was a custom-made gown by Virgil. In 2018, he was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. That was the same year he was appointed as the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line and was one of the very few Black designers running a major fashion house.
Of course Kanye West had something to say about the passing of Virgil Abloh, one of his oldest friends. People magazine says that Kanye dedicated his Sunday Service to Virgil’s memory, and wrote the following on the Sunday Service’s website:
“In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Donda,” West, 44, wrote in a message that remained on the site after the event.
Kanye’s Sunday Service choir also sang a version of Adele’s “Easy on Me” with a couple of lyrics changed as a possible tribute to Virgil.
Obviously, Virgil had a major influence in the fashion world, and many expressed their thoughts on his passing after the news broke:
My heart is broken
Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius
your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever
Sending love and light to your wife, children, family and day ones
you’re with the Master now, shine
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) November 28, 2021
Damn. Gutted. @virgilabloh is gone. He just texted me a few days ago… still —just a week ago— pushing me to focus on passion. The world lost an amazing talent today. I had no idea what he was fighting. Please don't squander your time. I'm trying to do better myself. pic.twitter.com/RRQmCtUGPf
— Alexis Ohanian 7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) November 28, 2021
R.I.P. Virgil Abloh
Here are just a few of the iconic album covers he has worked on over the last few years
— XXL Magazine (@XXL) November 28, 2021
Rest in peace, Virgil Abloh.