It’s been a year of devastating loss for the fashion world. Many of the industry’s best fashion designers and style stars have died in 2021-2022.
The industry lost both Alber Elbaz and Virgil Abloh, two of fashion’s most creative forces, who both died unexpectedly and before their time. There was also Andre Leon Talley, the statement-making American fashion journalist, stylist, creative director, and editor-at-large of Vogue, who was also the magazine’s first African-American male creative director.
Rounding out the biggest losses of the fashion world this year is Elsa Peretti, the fashion model turned jewelry designer for Tiffany & Co and Fred Segal, the fashion designer whose clothing boutiques became a signature of Los Angeles cool.
Update: Just 12 hours before the publication of this post, this writer learned that celebrity favorite designer Thierry Mugler had also passed away at age 73. While Mugler was not initially included in the original list, there was no way not to include him.
Fashion Designers Who Died 2021-2022
In what could arguably be called the biggest blow to the fashion community in 2021, Virgil Abloh, head designer of French fashion house Louis Vuitton, passed away after a 2-year battle with cancer. While his career didn’t rival that of Fred Segal and Elsa Perretti, who both died in their 80s, the thing about Virgil was that his death was so unexpected and he still had so much more to do.
Virgil Abloh is known for bringing streetwear to luxury and making it part of mainstream fashion. He was the founder and director of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and later became the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. He was the first black designer at a French fashion house. He was head designer since 2018.
Virgil dressed the likes of Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Chadwick Boseman. He also had a devoted fashion following from celebs like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian.
Virgil had been privately been battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer known as cardiac angiosarcoma, which affects the heart.
Before he passed away in November, Virgil designed the menswear show for Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2022. Of course, nobody knew it would be his last show but it certainly had Virgil’s signature written all over it. The show wa “Louis Dreamhouse,” where dancers flipped over beds and did handstands on rooftops that sprang out of the floor as models walked down the runway to an original soundtrack by Tyler, the Creator performed by Chineke! Orchestra. The last four looks were all white and featured angel wings which Vogue called “Leonardo-esque.” While I’m uncertain whether Virgil himself planned those wings, they certainly represented the moment.
Thierry Mugler died on January 23 of natural causes. He was 73. A post on Mugler’s Instagram page described him as “a visionary whose imagination…empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger every day.”
Thierry Mugler, who some might know because of Lady Gaga’s infatuation with him or for Kim Kardashian’s perchance for wearing his vintage pieces, was known for his spectacular shows and “fetishistic fashions.” The French-born designer was well-known for his avant-garde, architectural, hyperfeminine and theatrical approach to haute couture.
Let’s think of some celebs who have worn his fantastic getups. There was the famous floor-length black dress worn by Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, the ensembles worn by Beyonce during 2009 “I Am…World Tour” and of course Cardi B emerging from an oyster as she arrived at the 2019 Grammys in a vintage dress from Mugler’s Fall 1995 collection.
Thierry Mugler will certainly not be forgotten.
Alber Elbaz was an Israeli fashion designer (born in Morocco, grew up in Israel) who eventually became the creative director of Lanvin in Paris from 2001 to 2015 and was known for his sensational revival of the label, after working at other major fashion houses including Geoffrey Beene, Guy Laroche, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Even though the designer was fired from the eponymous label many years later (for complicated reasons not relating to the quality of his work), he really put Lanvin on the map. Before Alber, Lanvin was not well known (to this generation) and did not have a signature silhouette, or aesthetic. After Alber, the name and the silhouette went hand in hand.
The looks were feminine, romantic, and sometimes whimsical. Meryl Streep called herself a fan and so did Natalie Portman. The women that loved his designs were the ones that wanted to look classy and elegant and showstopping, in a quiet, charming, and romantic way.
After leaving Lanvin, there was talk of Alber moving to Dior or another famous fashion house. Instead, he founded the label AZ Factory in 2019.
Alber died in April 2021 of COVID-19 complications after being hospitalized for weeks. He was only 59.
Andre Leon Talley
Andre Leon Talley has controversially been called “fashion’s last great editor” by New York Times and Vogue, the company where he made it happen, has called him a pioneer.
He was also known for his “fabulousity,” his standout attire and his expertise on all things fashion. When he died of a heart attack at age 73, celebs and editors alike mourned the loss.
Andre took the fashion news director job at Vogue in 1983 and was named a creative director in 1988 by Anna Wintour herself. Aside from a three year run contributing to W magazine from Paris, he continued to work at Vogue until 2013.
As Vogue points out, he was the first black man to hold his position at Vogue and he was often the only black person in the front row at fashion shows. He was also the first to write about LaQuan Smith and other designers of color.
“Fashion’s been good to me,” he has said while being interviewed about Kate Novack’s new documentary on his life, The Gospel According to André, which came out in 2018.
It was also Andre’s larger-than-life personality and his statement-making fashion choices that really made him hard to ignore. He would often wear bright prints, big coats, bold capes and big pops of color. He wasn’t afraid to be noticed.
Elsa Peretti was a fashion model turned jewelry designer who is said to have revolutionized the industry with her designs inspired by bone fragments and pebbles. The designer began working for Tiffany & Co. in 1974 and her designs quickly made an impact on the industry.
Stars who wore Elsa Peretti include Gal Gadot, Zoe Kravitz, Margot Robbie, Angelina Jolie, Rihanna, and Emma Stone.
“Where’s my white collarless shirt from Fred Segal. It’s my most capable looking outfit!”
Remember that scene in Clueless where Cher is looking for her next outfit? It made sense that she would mention Fred Segal because he was the epitome of Los Angeles fashion in the 80s, 90s and beyond.
Way before that movie, however, Fred Segal had made a name for himself since he launched his famed namesake store in 1961. The Los Angeles retailer, who passed away in February 2021 at the age of 87, is credited for launching the careers of Kate Spade, Jeremy Scott and Juicy Couture.
– Simona Shemer
Photos: Virgil Abloh – Vogue.com, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – People.com | Thierry Mugler – Daily Mail UK | Alber Elbaz – Harpers Bazaar, Natalie Portman – NYTimes | Andre Leon Talley – NYTimes, Andre Leon Talley, Anna Wintour – CTPublic.org | Elsa Perretti – Popsugar | Fred Segal – People.com
You may also like to read more of Simona’s celebrity style posts like The Best, The Worst and The Most Boring Met Gala 2021 Fashion and A Look At 5 Celebrities for Holiday Style Inspiration.
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