Virgil Abloh has unfortunately passed at the age of 41 due to his ongoing private battle with cancer, but all is not lost as the legacy of Virgil Abloh lives on.
Abloh’s family announced on Instagram that Virgil had died after battling “a rare, aggressive form of cancer” called cardiac angiosarcoma. It was a two-year battle that saw Abloh undergo “numerous challenging treatments.”
While death takes someone away, it also gives us perspective to realise what they have given us. In the case of Virgil Abloh, we lost a visionary and pioneer for both his community and the global world of fashion. But he provided opportunities and a path for many young black designers looking to get into the extremely exclusive world of fashion. He left a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.
What did legacy mean for Virgil Abloh? It was never about just himself. On Pharrell’s OTHERtone podcast, Abloh stated that, “To me, there’s one level of the work that’s designed at Louis, but my real job is to make sure that there’s, like, six young Black kids that take my job after me.”
Abloh didn’t want to be an exception to the rule, he wanted black designers in amongst it with the big guys in fashion without it having to be a statement or controversy.
It’s not just about fashion either. Multidisciplinary was the word Abloh used, wasn’t it? That should make sense to you given Abloh’s own virtuosity outside of fashion. For example, Abloh has had a creative hand in the world of hip hop. It was his friend and partner, Kanye West, that got him started in fashion by getting Abloh an internship at Fendi in 2009.
West’s creative agency, DONDA, had Abloh as the creative director which meant we can thank him for getting the right designers for album artworks like Watch the Throne, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Long.Live.ASAP, and Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. His work on Watch the Throne earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package, which I just learnt existed.
How did Abloh make his name? It wasn’t Louis Vuitton that did it, Abloh did it himself in 2012 when he started his first brand, Pyrex Vision. That didn’t go for too long as Abloh would take the concept further and start his own fashion house, Off-White, in 2013. Off-White absolutely blew up because no one else was doing anything like it!
This fashion house is what really catapulted Abloh into the spotlight as Off-White would often collaborate with heavy hitters like Nike and… Ikea? Yeah, apparently Off-White collaborated with Ikea for a line of lifestyle items like floor rugs.
Why could he seemingly do silly things like an Ikea collaboration and actually pull it off? Because Abloh was an artist, a true artist. He had many exhibitions showcasing his pieces and he had a near-constant gig as a DJ.
When asked in an interview with Highsnobiety, Abloh stated that his art and fashion were not separate,
It was in 2018 when Abloh was appointed artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. This made him one of the very few Black designers to ever lead a French fashion house.
He became a huge hit with celebrities, so his work was all over the red carpet. It wasn’t just men interested in his work either as Hailey Bieber hit Abloh up for work on her bridal gown! His unique approach meant that he was ready for anything, he didn’t use the fact that he was the menswear designer stop him from making his own unique bridal gown.
Because of Abloh’s background and upbringing, his way of thinking, his creativity, has seriously changed the way fashion designers and even fashion itself is thought about. His legacy is cemented, he has changed things in fashion. Fashion houses all over the world will be looking for the next Virgil Abloh, not just Louis Vuitton. They’ll look in the same places they found Abloh, and hopefully some new black talent will become the norm in places like the French fashion houses. That’s the legacy of Virgil Abloh.
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