Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton and the first African-American to head a French luxury fashion house, has died of cancer at the age of 41.
LVMH, the French holding company that owns Louis Vuitton, said on Sunday that Abloh had passed away earlier that day after several years’ private struggle with the disease.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news,” said LVMH boss Bernard Arnault. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary; he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.
“The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend.”
Abloh, the child of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in Chicago and trained as a civil engineer and then an architect, made his name through collaborations with the rapper Kanye West, with whom he began working in 2002 at the age of 22.
LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Off White are devastated to announce the passing of Virgil Abloh, on Sunday, November 28th, of cancer, which he had been battling privately for several years. pic.twitter.com/CytwZLvSFu
— LVMH (@LVMH) November 28, 2021
After a stint as the creative director of Mr West’s design agency Donda, and art director for Mr West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album Watch the Throne, Abloh launched his own streetwear brand in Milan called Off-White.
Though he had no formal training in fashion, he had learned much about clothing from his seamstress mother and ascended quickly, winning a British Fashion Award and collaborating with Warby Parker, Jimmy Choo, Ikea and Nike while opening shops in New York and Tokyo.
In 2018 he was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections, the first African-American to win such a role. “It is an honour for me to accept this position,” he said at the time.
Off-White, he said, “is for the 17-year-old version of myself – whereas Vuitton is for the 37-year-old I am today.”
Meanwhile, he gained respect as a DJ, starting out with house parties in high school and later playing a nightclub residency at the Wynn luxury resort in Las Vegas, as well as two radio shows.
In the background however, since 2019, he was also battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer known as cardiac angiosarcoma, where tumours form in the walls of blood or lymph vessels usually starting in the heart.
He is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.