Rising LVMH designer Virgil Abloh dies of cancer at the age of 41
Virgil Abloh, the American designer known for introducing streetwear into luxury fashion and a rising star of the LVMH group, has died of cancer at the age of 41, the company said on Sunday.
Abloh, who has designed menswear for the Louis Vuitton brand since 2018 and infused lines with a mix of sportswear and praised tailoring, was promoted in July to a broader role within the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate.
The DJ and creator of the high-end leisure apparel label Off-White, a first-generation American born to Ghanaian parents, was one of the most well-known black people working in the luxury industry and within LVMH.
“Virgil was not only a designer with a great deal of genius and vision, but also a beautiful soul and a man of wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, president and controlling shareholder of LVMH, said in a statement.
In a post on Abloh’s Instagram account, his family said he was battling an aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, and chose to keep his 2019 diagnosis a secret. He lives by a wife and two children.
His death sparked acclaim in the fashion world, with rival brands such as Kering’s Gucci hailing his vision, and outside the sector as well, with French footballer Kylian Mbappé among those crediting his influence.
Abloh rose to prominence in the early 2000s as a creative collaborator with singer Kanye West. The first clothing label from 2012, Pyrex, was short-lived, but the designer quickly built Off-White into a sought-after brand for headwear and trainers. She has also won credit and awards in the fashion industry and has hosted amazing fashion shows in Paris.
At Vuitton, LVMH’s main driver of revenue and profitability, Abloh mixed his brand’s hoodies with suits and impressed some dubious critics early on with some twists on the classic look, amid some skepticism in fashion circles about whether sportswear would ever be anything more than fashion. .
Conglomerates like LVMH have been looking to entice younger luxury customers, getting them to rethink methods, while also trying to improve their diversity track record.
Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, told the Financial Times in July that LVMH’s desire to “disrupt a number of companies” formed part of its appeal to Abloh, and prompted the group to promote him further. It was to help LVMH launch new brands among other responsibilities.
“I look for people who have an immigrant mindset, who are strangers in an industry or strangers to a country, who are very hungry, who want to learn, and who want to be different within an industry that requires new ideas all the time,” Burke said.
Abloh was not a traditionally trained designer. He has described his inspirations as being taken from the street and from contemporary women, which he believes some brands don’t cater to. His shows were full of musical references.
In a 2016 Billboard magazine interview, Abloh said, “I’m trying to create a luxury version, a designer version, of what I see on the street.
“For me, I analyze the modern girl, the girl who is a friend. And they are empowered, they pay their bills themselves, they have their own style. They dress and they don’t. I see women’s groups that don’t even address that.”
Abloh has also been involved in an unusual collaboration—aside from lines with Nike-owned luggage maker Rimowa and LVMH, one of several brands trying to boost sales with limited-edition collections, he’s also made rugs with Ikea.
LVMH bought a 60 percent stake in Off-White in July.