Virgil Abloh, an American designer known for bringing streetwear into luxury fashion and a rising star within the LVMH group, died of cancer at the age of 41, the company said on Sunday.
Abloh, who had designed menswear for the Louis Vuitton brand since 2018, infusing lines with an acclaimed blend of athletic and couture wear, was promoted in July to a broader role within the more large global luxury goods conglomerate.
The DJ and creator of high-end leisure label Off-White, a first-generation American born to Ghanaian parents, was one of the most prominent black people working in the luxury industry and within LVMH.
“Virgil was not only a designer with a lot of genius, a visionary, he was also a beautiful soul and a man with a lot of wisdom,” said Bernard Arnault, CEO and controlling shareholder of LVMH, in a statement. .
In a post to Abloh’s Instagram account, his family said he is battling an aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, and has chosen to keep his 2019 diagnosis private. He is survived by a wife and two children.
His death has garnered tributes in the fashion world, with rival brands such as Kering’s Gucci praising his vision, and outside the industry as well, with French footballer Kylian Mbappé among those credited with his impact.
Abloh rose to prominence in the early 2000s as a creative collaborator with singer Kanye West. An early clothing brand from 2012, Pyrex, didn’t last long, but the designer quickly made Off-White a sought-after brand for its hoodies and sneakers. He has also won credits and awards in the fashion industry and has put on glitzy parades in Paris.
At Vuitton, LVMH’s main revenue and profitability driver, Abloh mixed his branded hoodies with suits and impressed some questionable early reviews with twists on more classic looks, amid some skepticism in fashion circles as to whether sportswear would be more than a fad.
Conglomerates such as LVMH have sought to appeal to an increasingly young luxury clientele, pushing them to rethink styles, while trying to improve their diversity record.
Michael Burke, chief executive of Louis Vuitton, told the Financial Times in July that LVMH’s desire to “disrupt a number of businesses” had been part of its attraction to Abloh and had prompted the group to promote it further. He was to help LVMH launch new brands, among other responsibilities.
“I’m looking for people with an immigrant mindset, who are foreigners in an industry or foreigners in a country, and they are very hungry, they want to learn, want to be different in an industry that is constantly in need of new ideas, ”says Burke.
Abloh was not a traditionally trained designer. He had described his inspirations as drawn from the streets and modern women, to whom he believed some brands did not respond. His shows were steeped in musical references.
In an interview with Billboard magazine in 2016, Abloh said, “I’m trying to create a luxury version, a designer version, of what I see on the street.
“For me, I analyze the modern girl, the girl with whom I am friends. And they are empowered, they pay their own bills, they have their own style. They wear clothes, the clothes don’t wear them. I see women’s collections that don’t even deal with this.
Abloh had also been involved in quirky collaborations – besides lines with Nike and luggage maker Rimowa owned by LVMH, one of the many brands trying to boost sales with limited edition collections, he also made rugs with Ikea. .
LVMH bought a 60% stake in Off-White in July.