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Virgil Abloh, Ghanaian-American fashion designer, dies of cancer at 41

Virgil Abloh, the acclaimed menswear designer for Louis Vuitton and founder and CEO of Off-White, died Sunday of cancer, according to a post from his verified Instagram account. He was 41.

“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,” the post read.

“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.

Abloh was a true multi-hyphenate — first, and foremost a fashion designer, who before making history as Louis Vuitton’s first Black artistic director, founded the cultish streetwear label Off-White.

At Louis Vuitton, he brought in a younger demographic, with menswear collections that blurred the lines between high fashion and streetwear, as well as pushed artistic boundaries and challenged gender norms. A sparkly “embroidered bib” he designed, for example, became an instant talking point when it was worn by Timothee Chalamet to the Golden Globes in 2019. Other versions were donned by Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman.

Famous for cross-collaborations, one of Abloh’s greatest legacies was his contribution to the world of footwear — setting the standard for innovative sneakers, in edition after edition of Off-White x Nike designs.

He was also big in the world of music, and as a prolific DJ, played at music venues around the world. As a longstanding collaborator of Kanye West, now known as Ye, he worked as a creative director for the rapper’s design agency Donda, and designed some of Ye’s album covers. As an artist and furniture designer, he collaborated with the likes of Mercedes Benz on an art concept car and IKEA on a coveted range aimed at people moving into their first homes.

Tributes poured in overnight for the late designer, who was one of fashion’s most powerful Black men, in an industry that notoriously lacks diversity. Harlem couturier Daniel Day, known as Dapper Dan, spoke to the point in an Instagram post, writing “Virgil’s life was a testament to how much Black Lives Matter by showing what black lives are capable of.
“His march took him to the top of luxury fashion. Virgil started out as a foot soldier but died a general.”

British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful called him “a giant among men,” on Instagram, writing that Abloh always worked “to open the door to art and fashion for future generations, so that that they — unlike himself, would grow up in a creative world with people to mirror themselves in.”

Abloh was named among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2018, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented an exhibition of the work of “genre-bending artist and designer” in 2019.

Before his untimely death, he was working on plans for a fashion show in Miami, Florida, to coincide with the opening of a new Louis Vuitton men’s store in the city.

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