Virgil Abloh, Off-White Founder and Louis Vuitton Menswear Artistic Director, Dies at 41

Abloh became the first Black artistic director at Louis Vuitton in 2018

virgil abloh
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Virgil Abloh, the fashion designer and entrepreneur who most recently served as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, has died after privately battling cancer for years. He was 41.

His passing was announced on his verified Instagram account, in a post explaining that the designer had been fighting a “rare, aggressive form of cancer” called cardiac angiosarcoma.

“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 statement.

“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” it continued. “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.”

Abloh commanded multiple prestigious roles in the fashion industry, founding and serving as CEO of haute couture label Off-White since 2012. In 2018, he was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, becoming the French label’s first Black artistic director.

Born in Rockford, Illinois in 1980, Abloh obtained an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a master’s in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. While working at a screen printing store in Chicago, he met Kanye West. The two interned together at Fendi, owned by Louis Vuitton’s parent company LVMH. Abloh would go on to become West’s longtime artistic director.

LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault spoke for Louis Vuitton in the wake of Abloh’s passing.

“We are all shocked by this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer and a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” he said in a statement. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow and we are all thinking of his loved ones on the passing of their husband, father, brother, son and friend.”

Abloh’s peers and admirers in the fashion, arts and culture industries also took to social media to express their shock and grief. Chance the Rapper, Naomi Osaka and Lil Yachty were among those who commented on the post announcing his death.

“Shocked beyond belief,” said Donatella Versace. “The world has suffered a huge loss and fashion will not be the same without you, my dear friend Virgil. I will miss you.”

Marc Jacobs wrote, “I am so sorry to read this. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. May you Rest In Peace and Power dear Virgil.”

Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, sister Edwina Abloh, and parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.