Virgil Abloh dies at the age of 41: NPR – archyde

The famous men’s fashion designer Virgil Abloh died today. He was 41.


The fashion designer Virgil Abloh has died. Abloh was the founder of the Off-White label and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, which made him one of the most powerful black designers in the world and a luminary who helped cement streetwear as high fashion. He was only 41 years old and had been battling a rare, aggressive form of cancer for two years. To tell us more, we have Karen Grigsby Bates from NPR. Thank you for joining us, Karen.


FOLKENFLIK: So Abloh was a friend and creative collaborator with Kanye West before starting the Off-White brand and leading menswear at Louis Vuitton. Where did he sit in this world of streetwear and high fashion?

BATES: David, I spoke to Booth Moore. She is the editor-in-chief of the industry bible Women’s Wear Daily. And she pointed out that Abloh was a trailblazer and says his entry into fashion is unique.

BOOTH MOORE: It came about through pop culture, not through traditional design channels. And he was very good at bridging the gaps between different disciplines. He himself was a DJ and had a huge following on social media before he got into fashion. And so he really changed the image of a fashion designer who can bring together a lot of employees who have a fan base.

BATES: Moore also said that Abloh was a huge inspiration for younger creatives because of his non-linear entry into fashion.

FOLKENFLIK: And how would you describe his influence on the world of men’s fashion?

BATES: Not just menswear, David – Virgil Abloh was one of the earliest adopters of streetwear and the crossover of streetwear into fashion with his company Off-White. Here’s Booth Moore again.

MOORE: He had this clever way of labeling things on his line where it was the actual name of the thing, like a shoe or a hoodie, and that would be part of the labeling. And so this mysticism arose around the objects.

FOLKENFLIK: So did he have a defining vision? Was there a consistent line that you could see in his work?

BATES: Oh yes. Pop culture was very important to him, and he took much of its influences from what young people wore and what they cared about. He was a great collaborator. And because he had celebrity friends, he would sometimes work with the likes of Kanye, as you mentioned, and Jay-Z on things that interested them. And it wasn’t just individuals, David. Over the years, Abloh has partnered with Nike, Evian, the chic outerwear company Moncler. He worked with IKEA on furniture and had a major exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London with the artist Takashi Murakami, whose own work is saturated with pop culture references. I mean he was everywhere.

FOLKENFLIK: What do you think Virgil Abloh will be remembered for?

BATES: I asked Booth more about it, and she answered right away.

MOORE: Virgil was a catalyst for much of what is now expected in the industry and is slowly arriving.

BATES: You know, David, the New York Times says Virgil Abloh’s role at LVMH, the group that included Louis Vuitton, “made him the most powerful black manager in the world’s most powerful luxury corporation.” And in an industry that is still grappling with race and diversity, his death will leave a huge void that will be difficult to fill.

FOLKENFLIK: This is Karen Grigsby Bates. She is a senior correspondent for NPR’s Code Switch team. Thanks, Karen.

BATES: You’re welcome.


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