The fashion industry is in shock after news of iconic designer Virgil Abloh’s death on Sunday, Nov. 28 after a private battle with cancer. Abloh was just 41.
Abloh made history in 2018 as the first Black designer to serve as men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton. He also founded his own label, Off-White, which had become known for its structured, architectural streetwear designs and featured dozens of collabs with such brands as Nike, Serena Williams, Jimmy Choo, Timberland, Ikea, Takashi Murakami, and more.
His family posted a statement to Abloh’s Instagram, sharing he underwent “numerous challenging treatments” over the past two years while continuing his work in fashion, art, and culture.
“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” wrote the family, “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.”
Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton Chairman and CEO, called Abloh a “creative genius” in a statement following the news.
“Virgil was not only a friend, great collaborator, creative genius, visionary, and disruptor, but also one of the best cultural communicators of our times. He paved the way for future generations,” said Burke in a recent statement. “As a devoted supporter of his community through his charities and passions, he was an eternal optimist who believed anything was possible… I am honored to have called him my friend. My deepest thoughts are with his wife, children, parents, family and the entire community that was touched by his greatness.”
The Illinois-native was deeply rooted in his community and had strong ties with Kanye West and supported philanthropic efforts, including West’s nonprofit, Donda’s House, and his “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund which raised over $1M in scholarships for Black students, and his “I Support Young Black Businesses” project.
“To me, the best philanthropists are those who do good things because they are the right thing to do, not because of publicity or because they’ll receive some kind of credit for it,” shared Donnie Belcher, co-founder and former founding executive director. “Virgil had a great heart and was one of the real ones behind the scenes making it work for DH and so many other nonprofits. Prayers to his loved ones. May he rest in royalty, because he was a true king. #salute.”
In what is sure to be the first in a series of tributes to his life and legacy, Louis Vuitton has announced it will present his final collection tomorrow (Nov. 30) in Miami at 5:30 pm ET.