Virgil Abloh’s legacy as the legendary designer dies aged 41

Virgil Abloh’s Legacy As The Legendary Designer Dies Aged 41
Virgil Abloh at the 2016 CFDA Awards
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By Prudence Wade, PA

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh has died from an aggressive form of cancer.

The 41-year-old, who was the Louis Vuitton menswear designer and founder of cult label Off-White, was described on his Instagram page as “a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend”.


The statement continued: “For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, 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.

“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.”

Tributes have been pouring in for Abloh. Gigi Hadid wrote on Instagram: “His kindness and energetic generosity left a lasting impression on every life he touched— he made everyone feel seen and special. He will be deeply missed, cherished, and celebrated by me and all the people and industries that have been lucky enough to work around & know the true supernova behind this man.”


Idris Elba tweeted, “Too soon Virgil. You will be missed from this world man”, and Hailey Bieber posted pictures of Abloh designing her wedding dress.

Abloh originally trained as an architect but rose to fame as Kanye West’s creative director – both came from Chicago and interned at Fendi, bonding over their love of fashion.

These are just some of the ways Abloh changed the face of fashion, leaving behind an indelible legacy…


He made streetwear a luxury commodity

We’re now used to seeing high fashion tracksuits and trainers on the runways of fashion week, but athleisure wasn’t always embraced by the luxury industry. Abloh played a big part in bringing it into the mainstream, with the help of his label Off-White – established in 2013.

He brought together the worlds of streetwear and couture – sometimes physically in outfits. One collection had models wearing massive tulle skirts, with deconstructed hoodies or windbreakers on top.

Off-White made Abloh one of the hottest designers in fashion, and he became known for certain signature touches – particularly putting everything in quotation marks. While some people saw it as quite obvious (for example, scarves would be emblazoned with “SCARF”), it was instantly recognisable as Abloh’s work. He even included it in Hailey Bieber’s wedding outfit, with her veil saying: “TILL DEATH DO US PART”.

He made history at Louis Vuitton

Abloh was named the creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear in 2018, making him the first black designer at the label and one of the few people of colour in a top fashion job. It was a huge step for diversity, and Abloh’s vision for the brand was all about inclusivity.

His first show at Louis Vuitton was called ‘We Are The World’, and featured plenty of black musicians on the runway. Abloh told the Business of Fashion in 2018: “The message is that diversity is key to the modern way of thinking and living, and not as a marketing line.”

He came up with some unusual collaborations

Serena Williams wearing a collaboration between Nike and Off-White for the 2018 US Open
Serena Williams wearing a collaboration between Nike and Off-White for the 2018 US Open (Alamy/PA)

Collaborations aren’t new news in fashion – just think of how much buzz Skims x Fendi has made in the past month alone – but Abloh pushed the boundaries.

He had some more traditional collabs – for example, he worked closely with Nike on shoes and clothes, even dressing Serena Williams for tennis matches – but some were more unusual.

IKEA marking its collaboration with Virgil Abloh
IKEA marking its collaboration with Abloh (Jonathan Hordle/PA)

Abloh made headlines for teaming up with IKEA – the collection included memorable rugs made to look like blown-up IKEA receipts.

He blurred the lines between art, music and design

Virgil Abloh with Kendall Jenner at the 2018 Met Gala
Abloh with Kendall Jenner at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

Abloh told the Business of Fashion: “I’m not a designer; that term seems like it’s for traditionalists” – and that very much sums up his approach to the creative arts.

While he held one the most visible jobs in fashion, he merged that with plenty of other pursuits – bringing the industry closer to music (he was also a DJ) and putting his efforts into design. He opened up the world of fashion, showing it doesn’t have to be just about clothes.

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