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Virgil Abloh passes away at the age of 41 after private cancer battle

Lauretta Roberts
28 November 2021

Virgil Abloh, founder of elevated streetwear brand Off White and artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear, has passed away at the age of just 41 having fought a private battle with a rare form of cancer for several years.

Louis Vuitton parent group LVMH issued a statement this evening to say it was "devastated" to announce that the designer had passed away today (28 November).

LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault said in a statement: "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.

"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."

In an Instagram post, his family issued the following statement: "We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend.

"He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues.

"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. 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.

‘We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life. Virgil Abloh. September 30, 1980 – November 28, 2021."

Louis Vuitton Menswear AW21

Abloh is considered as one of the most boundary-breaking designers and creatives of his generation. The son of a seamstress and paint company manager, he was born in Illinois in 1980 and went on to graduate with a master's degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2006.

His interest in fashion was sparked while studying and he first rose to prominence as a creative collaborator of rapper and fashion designer Kanye West (the pair interned together at Fendi), who would appoint him as creative director of his agency DONDA.

Abloh set up his first company Pyrex Vision, taking deadstock clothing from Ralph Lauren and screen printing his designs onto it, making him aforerunner of the elevated streetwear movement, which has come to dominate fashion in recent years.

He went on to establish Off White in Milan in 2013, with the support of the New Guards Group (now owned by Farfetch), and gained a cult global following for his designs featuring the distinctive logo. The brand went on to encompass menswear, womenswear, childrenswear and accessories, along with limited edition collaborations and homewares.

Off White AW21

In 2018 he was appointed artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, one the most coveted roles in fashion, breaking ground once again as the first person of African descent to lead the brand's menswear line, as well as one of the few black designers to lead a major French fashion house.

British designer Kim Jones, now heading up Dior Mens, was Abloh's forerunner at LVMH. He said in statement on Instagram: "So sad to hear about the passing of dear Virgil one of the kindest people you could meet, many great times spent travelling the world and hanging out in hotel rooms working in the floor and going through Japanese magazines and laughing and talking about ideas… my thoughts to Shannon and the children and the rest of his family."

Outside of fashion, Abloh was a DJ and creative collaborator in music, homeware (a collaboration with IKEA sold out as soon as it dropped) and beyond. He was also named one of Time's most influential people of 2018. While he never publicly spoke about his diagnosis he had previously revealed to Vogue that he had decided to "shift gears" and refrain from travelling so much and making so many public appearances.

Farfetch founder and CEO Jose Neves was among the many fashion figures to pay tribute this evening, saying: "Words cannot express how sad we are to lose Virgil. He was a creative genius, a visionary, and a friend and he made a truly enormous impact on culture. We send all of our love to his family, his friends and to everyone whose lives were touched by him. We will miss you and remember you, Virgil."

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