Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton artistic director and visionary behind Kanye West album art, dies at 41
Virgil Abloh, the men's artistic director of Louis Vuitton — who was also a DJ, one of Kanye West's most recognizable proteges, and the creative mind behind multiple album covers this past decade — has died. He was 41.
Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton and Off-White (a brand Abloh started and was the CEO of), announced the news Sunday on social media, saying the designer had died from cancer, which "he had been battling privately for several years."
The company included a statement from CEO Bernard Arnault, who said, "We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom."
He added, "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 was born and raised in Rockford, Ill., to Ghanaian immigrant parents. His mother was a seamstress, while his father managed a paint company. Abloh graduated Boylan Catholic High School in 1998, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2002, and a Master of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2006.
While he saw success as a T-shirt designer during the 2000s, Abloh's biggest break came in 2009, when he interned at Fendi in the same 2009 class as West. By 2011, he was creative director of the rapper's creative agency Donda.
Abloh worked on the visuals for multiple iconic rap albums, including West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus; A$AP Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP; and the West and Jay-Z collaborative project Watch the Throne, which earned him a 2012 Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.
After the success of his short-lived fashion experiment Pyrex Vision in 2012, Abloh leaned harder into becoming a designer with the launch of his brand Off-White in 2013. Two years later, the label — which became known for style signatures like quotation marks, zip-ties, capital letters, and barricade tape — was a finalist for the coveted LVMH prize.
Abloh's journey from fashion rebel to industry trailblazer hit its biggest milestone in 2018 with his appointment as artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear ready-to-wear line, making him the first person of African descent to lead the brand's menswear line.
Abloh has had many creative collaborations with iconic brands and celebrities since, including a partnership with Nike on Serena Williams' 2018 U.S. Open outfit, an Apple Music 1 show called "Televised Radio," and designing Hailey Bieber's wedding dress.
In 2019, Abloh was appointed to the board of directors of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and in 2020 he established Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholarship Fund to assist Black students. He also sold a majority stake of Off-White to LVMH in July of this year.
A statement posted on Abloh's official Instagram account reads: "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."
Abloh is survived by wife, Shannon Abloh; his children, Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh; his sister, Edwina Abloh; and his parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh.