Virgil Abloh, fashion designer behind Off-White and Louis Vuitton, dies of cancer at the age of 41 – archyde

US designer Virgil Abloh, a leading fashion manager hailed as Karl Lagerfeld of his generation, has died after a private battle with cancer. He was 41.

Abloh’s death was announced on Sunday by the luxury company LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and the Off-White label, the Abloh brand. Abloh was the menswear designer for Louis Vuitton.

“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Not only was Virgil a brilliant designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom, ”said Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and CEO, in a statement.

A statement by Abloh’s family on the designer’s Instagram account stated that Abloh had been battling cardiac angiosarcoma for the past two years, a rare form of cancer that causes a tumor to develop in the heart.

“He has chosen to endure his struggle privately since his diagnosis in 2019 and undergo numerous challenging treatments while simultaneously running several major institutions that span fashion, art and culture,” the statement said.

In 2018, Abloh became Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director for menswear in the history of the French design house. Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian American whose mother taught him sewing, had no formal training in fashion but did have an engineering degree and a master’s degree in architecture.

Abloh, who grew up in Rockford, Illinois, just outside Chicago, was often referred to as a Renaissance man in the fashion world. He worked as a DJ in the moonlight. But in a short time he became one of the most famous designers in the fashion industry. Abloh called himself a “doer”. In 2018, he was named One of the Most Influential People by Time Magazine.

In 2009, Abloh met Kanye West – now called Ye – while working in a screen printing business. After he and Ye interned at LVMH brand Fendi, Abloh was Ye’s creative director. Abloh was the art director for the 2011 Ye Jay Z album Watch the throne, for which Abloh was nominated for a Grammy.

Abloh’s collaboration with West served as a blueprint for future cross-border collaborations that linked high and low. He has teamed up with Nike with his off-white label on a line of rage-inducing sneakers that have been remixed with a variety of styles and Helvetica fonts. Abloh also designed furniture for IKEA, refillable bottles for Evian and Big Mac cartons for McDonald’s. His work has been exhibited at the Louvre, the Gagosian, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

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Abloh’s death stunned the entertainment world. Actor Riz Ahmed said on Twitter that Abloh “stretched the culture and changed the game”. Fashion designer Jeff Staple wrote, “You taught us all to dream.” Pharrell Williams called Abloh “a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius”.

Abloh took a “three percent approach” to fashion – that a new design could be created by changing an original three percent. Critics said Abloh was more brilliant at repackaging than creating something new. But Abloh’s style was also confident – quotation marks were his trademark – and high-minded.

“In my head, streetwear is connected to Duchamp,” Abloh told New Yorker in 2019, referring to the French artist and writer Marcel Duchamp, who died in 1968. “It’s this ready-made idea. I am speaking from Lower East Side, New York. It’s like hip hop. It’s sampling. I’ll take James Brown, I’ll chop it up, I’ll make a new song. “

Abloh can be seen at an Off-White fashion show in Paris in January 2019. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

Stars stood in line to be attracted to Abloh. Beyoncé, Michael B. Jordan, Kim Kardashian West, Timothée Chalamet and Serena Williams have worn his clothes.

Abloh’s Off-White label, in which LVMH acquired a majority stake earlier this year, made him an arbiter of cool. But his appointment at Louis Vuitton put Abloh at the head of an industry where he was once a gruff outsider – and made him one of the most powerful black executives in a historically closed fashion world.

As Abloh was preparing for his debut menswear show in 2018, he told GQ, “I now have a platform to transform the industry.”

“We’re designers, so we can start a trend, we can highlight problems, we can get a lot of people to focus on something, or we can get a lot of people to focus on ourselves,” Abloh said. “I’m not interested in [the latter]. I am interested in using my platform as one of a very small group of African American men to design a house to show people around in poetic ways. “

Abloh leaves behind his wife, Shannon Abloh, and children, Lowe and Gray.

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