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Louis Vuitton fashion designer Virgil Abloh dies at 41




Virgil Abloh in 2018.
Photo: Matthew Sperzel / Getty Images

Virgil Abloh, who rose from the American streetwear scholar to become, in 2018, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, and guru of millions with his own brand Off-White, died on Sunday, according to a notice posted on his Instagram Account. He had been battling angiosarcoma in private, a rare cancer of the heart, since 2019. He was 41 years old.

Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian-American who had been the creative director of his friend and collaborator Kanye West, was that rare thing in fashion: a brand designer whose influence was felt outside the usual self-selected niches. of fashion, a true icon of pop culture. This was due in part to his designs, including the Off-White logo, his trademark, his flashy use of splattered quotes on clothing, shoes and accessories, the danger yellow stripe generously applied to handbags and pennies. -clothes made them instantly recognizable. But that owed just as much to his insistence on remaining culturally omnivorous: DJing, curating, collaboration (with Nike, with Takashi Murakami, with Levis, with Ikea) and generally refusing to stick to the usual avenues of luxury fashion. He was not only the rare American to succeed in a large European house, but even rarer, a black designer in a still predominantly white environment. And he did it with rare energy, stacking projects on top of projects in multiple time zones and across the globe. It never seemed to satiate his fans either. Not only had he designed enough before his 40th birthday that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago organized a retrospective, it has also been extended, by popular demand.

It represented a smash of the first order, a success at the highest echelons of an industry that had not always been interested in his contributions. This success influenced a generation of black designers and influencers. Victor Glemaud, designer and creator of In the Blk, a black fashion collective, said he was one of their earliest and most active members. Luka Sabbat, a fashion influencer, wrote:

Fall 2019 Off-Whites collection.
Photo: Peter White / Getty Images

Louis Vuitton fall 2020 men’s collection.

Louis Vuitton men’s spring 2020 collection by Abloh.
Photo: Estrop / Getty Images

Born in Rockville, Illinois to immigrant parents, Abloh first studied engineering and then architecture. Working for a company in Chicago, he got involved in the local fashion scene, eventually opened his own boutique, RSVP Gallery, and connected with another booming Chicagoan, West. When the two first started showing up at fashion events, they weren’t always greeted with enthusiasm. A young Virgil is seen alongside West in a 2009 street-style photo taken by Tommy Ton in Paris, which did not lead to an industry embrace but to a parody on South Park. When Abloh and West interned together for Fendi in 2010, their contributions weren’t too highly rated either. Me and Virgil are in Rome, giving drawings to Fendi, over and over again, and having our drawings demolished, West described it to Zane Lowe in an interview with BBC1 in 2013, the same year Abloh founded Off-White. [We] brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said no. How many motherfuckers have you seen in leather sweatpants? Seven years later, LVMH, the parent company of Fendis, had not only hired Abloh for Louis Vuitton, its largest and most beloved brand, but giving him an extended role throughout the company, affecting its wine and spirits portfolio and its hotel and hospitality brands as well as fashion. (He also bought a controlling 60% stake in Off-White, for an undisclosed amount.)

Abloh’s genius was to connect directly with young fans and young consumers, whose wants and needs he always seemed able to anticipate and satisfy. Everything I do is for the 17 year old version of myself, he said. Where he went, lines formed and what he touched was often sold (then sold again in resale markets). We have never been in line to enter an exhibition, Nick Simunovic, director at Gagosian, amazed me in 2018 when Abloh and Murakami hosted a collaborative show in London, and at least one of his shows during Paris Fashion Week became a crowd crush, with PR harassed Vogue publishers of a certain age through the fray. His pieces have become status symbols for a rising generation of fashion fanatics and, more than ever, fan.boys: You can’t see it in that shit the other day, Gunna rapped on Lil Babys Never Recover. Virgil has just prepared a completely different color for me. (Not that Abloh’s appeal is limited to young men; Hailey Bieber got married in an Off-White dress, hanging out a train reading, Ablohishly, Till Death Do Us Part, quotes included.)

Off-white spring 2016.
Photo: François Durand / Getty Images

Off-white spring 2018.
Photo: FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

Spring 2018.
Photo: Parade / Getty Images

Naomi Campbell for the Off-White Spring 2018 Fashion Show.
Photo: Richard Bord / Getty Images

Within fashion circles, critics boil below the surface and sometimes erupt above that his creations are not original enough, borrowed too freely from creators (like Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons or Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garons) who ‘he worships. Sometimes these designers themselves dealt him blows; Simons, in a interview with GQ Style in 2017, said that even though he thought Abloh was a lovely guy, I’m inspired by people who bring something that I think hasn’t been seen, it’s original. But these reviews neither slowed Abloh’s rise nor seemed to bother him much. Simons takes, Abloh said in a subsequent interview with W Magazine, shows the line in the sand between two generations: an older one who insists on hierarchies and lineages and a younger one who rejects them. From his early days, at the head of a small start-up that he called Pyrex Vision, he had insisted on the right, essentially, to remix existing models to make them their own: Pyrex’s early successes included vintage Ralph shirts. Lauren. overprinted with Abloh’s own graphics, which spiky (not less for the mark-up price seven times) but also sold out. He Recount The New Yorker in 2019 that among his fashion cheat codes was, in his words, the three percent approach of creating something new by modifying an existing design by three percent. Three were enough.

While Ablohs’ approach represents a generational change, it has also won over the older guard who holds the purse strings. Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, the group that owns Louis Vuitton, said in a statement on Sunday that Virgil was not only a genius designer and a great visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. . With his diagnosis kept a closely guarded secret, Abloh has remained active and, at least in appearance, pursued the multi-faceted, multi-tasking projects that have defined his life; At the time of his death, Vuitton was planning a men’s parade in Miami this Tuesday, one of a series of nomadic and one-off shows, as part of the Art Basel fair. (At time of printing, there was no indication whether the show would continue.) His survivors include his wife, Shannon Abloh; her children, Lowe and Gray; her sister, Edwina Abloh, and her parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh.

Off-white fall 2019.
Photo credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Louis Vuitton man spring 2019.
Photo: ERTRAND GUAY / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

Fall 2020 Off-Whites collection.
Photo: Taylor Hill / Getty Images

Off-white fall 2020.
Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine a designer who further distills his moment the frantic pace of digital, the immediate accessibility of references, the vanishing issues of so-called authenticity, the collapsed divide between celebrity culture and street culture that him. But he rushed towards all of this with rare generosity. Bruce Pask, the menswear director of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, reminded me how Abloh, for his first show at Louis Vuitton, invited not only the press, but a phalanx of students and fans to parade as well. : if he had done that, he would take everyone with him. It was an unprecedented dream, but his alchemical blend of enthusiasm and eye won it. I have never heard Virgil say a negative thing in my whole life, his friend and collaborator Justin Saunders, from the JJJJound site, Recount GQ Style. What I knew about creativity was to say no to things, but it’s the opposite. It’s like when Virgil convinced me to be a DJ, Saunders said. I still don’t know how to use a blender. I told Virgil, I don’t know how to DJ, and he said, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just have fun. And then finally we were DJs at Coachella.

Louis Vuitton fall 2020.
Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images

Louis Vuitton fall 2020.
Photo credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Off-white fall 2020.

Off-white spring 2020.
Photo: Richard Bord / Getty Images

Louis Vuitton spring 2020.

Off-white spring 2020.
Photo: Stéphane Cardinale – Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

Off-white fall 2021.
Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images




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