Legendary Fashion Designer Virgil Abloh Sadly Passes Away Following Quiet Cancer Battle

·3 min read
Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh has passed away, aged 41, after an arduous, private battle with cancer.

The artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and founder of streetwear label Off-White had been suffering from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, as revealed in a message posted to his Instagram account yesterday.

‘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,’ read the caption on Instagram announcing his death.

Amongst the legions of people in the industry to address the devastating news is LVMH’s chief executive Bernard Arnault who said: ‘We are all shocked by this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, but also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.’

Gucci wrote that Abloh is ‘an immense inspiration to us all’.

American-born Abloh, who is of Ghanaian heritage, became heralded as a streetwear king by fans and media alike, not least because of his label Off-White, which he launched in 2013 and eventually evolved into couture-style designs.

Abloh’s success merging the worlds of streetwear and high-fashion led to him being dubbed the ‘Karl Lagerfeld for millennials’ and the ‘Andy Warhol for our times’, as per The Times.

The civil engineering graduate, who received no formal fashion training had previously said in an interview with The Times that his fashion abilities come from ‘looking inwards’.

But his seamstress mother, Eunice Abloh, taught him the basics at a tender age.

And Abloh’s commitment to the industry paid off, as the former creative director for Kanye West went on to land a top job at French fashion house Louis Vuitton.

As a result of this, Abloh made history as the first black man to be an artistic director at the storied house that dates back to 1854.

Louis Vuitton's chief executive Michael Burke previously told the New York Times: 'Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist of the moment.'

Abloh previously told ELLE: ‘The buying public, there's already a level of desire that's required. People like fancy things! That hasn't gone away since the dawn of time, but one thing that I think is resonating is this feeling of humanity, and that’s what I’ve always tapped into, more so than fashion itself, more so than the desire. How can creativity make a feedback loop with humanity? And that’s where I think that the future will see bright revelations and new ideas, if it can go in that direction.’

And alongside Abloh’s thriving fashion career, he has been known for his philanthropic work too.

In a bid to foster equity and inclusion within fashion, he raised £750,00 ($1 million) to benefit promising black students with a ‘Post-Modern’ Scholarship Fund, in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organisation that supports and nurtures the future of fashion.

The initiative also involved providing students with mentoring and support services.

Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh and children Lowe and Grey.

Alongside his family and dearest friends, Abloh's loss is, of course, felt by his devoted fashion community to whom he will always be legend.

As the caption concludes in the recent post on Abloh’s Instagram account, ‘Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.’

He will be missed by us all.

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