The Life and Fashion of Louis Vuitton Designer Virgil Abloh, Dead At 41

A shocking blow has hit the fashion world this week. US designer Virgil Abloh has passed away. The acclaimed menswear designer for Louis Vuitton and founder of Off-White died on Sunday of a rare, aggressive form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma. He was just 41 years old.

Abloh had chosen to handle his situation privately so not many people knew he has been battling cancer since 2019. He even handled treatment while being the head of several important projects. 

As Hollywood  and New York deals with the shocking and devastating loss of this amazing artist, designer and entrepreneur, we’re paying tribute to his amazing aesthetic by detailing the celebrities that wore him so well. 

Virgil Abloh Fashion Designer 1980-2021

Most people know Virgil Abloh for bringing back streetwear to high end fashion and his turn as menswear designer for Louis Vuitton. But did you know that the skateboarder and DJ also teamed up with Kanye West in 2009, before anyone knew who he was? He also launched his own line, Off-White, in 2013 and became the first African-American to head a French luxury house when he became the creative director for Louis Vuitton Men’s in 2018, according to Vogue. Abloh replaced his mentor Kim Jones.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at Louis Vuitton Paris
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at Louis Vuitton – Paris Fashion Week
Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian

In June 2018, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian (dressed in a striking blue jumper I still remember to this day), Rihanna, and Bella Hadid showed up for Abloh’s first show in Paris where he showcased his Spring 2019 collection. They all wore his custom designs, of course.

Rihanna in VVirgil Abloh
Rihanna

Rihanna was the first one to wear Virgil Abloh before his collection even hit the runway. 

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Chadwick Boseman at the 2018 ESPYs wearing Louis Vuitton

In an ironic turn of events, Chadwick Boseman, the talented actor who passed away in August 2020 of colon cancer at age 43, was the first actor to wear Virgil Abloh on the red carpet. He donned a monochromatic white look with urban-sportif accents from the Louis Vuitton Spring 2019 at the 26th annual ESPY Awards in June 2018. 

Serena Williams in Off-White

Venus and Serena Williams were both saddened by the news. On her Instagram, Venus wrote, “I’m devastated by the passing of @virgilabloh …. I love him so much. I always watched everything he did so closely and it inspired me to be better in everything I do. His collections literally brought me to tears because they were so connected so beautiful and so inspiring.”

She also said that she regretted never meeting him, although she wanted to at this year’s Met Gala. “I thought I had more time,” she wrote, “I had no idea he didn’t have more time…”

In 2019, Serena Williams turned to Virgil Abloh for help when she asked him to design a fashionable two piece for her to wear while competing at the French Open. The year before, the French Tennis Federation had ruled that the 23-time Grand Slam champion would no longer be able to wear her warrior princess catsuit. Luckily, the custom-made Off-White monochrome ensemble designed by Abloh and Nike was anything but boring. 

Issa Rae at the MTV Movie Awards in 2017

Other celebs that wore Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collection include Yara Shahidi, Issa Rae, Camilla Cabello, Janelle Monae, and Timothee Chalamat. 

Naomi Campbell with Virgil Abloh 
Naomi Campbell with Virgil Abloh 

Virgil Abloh with model runway collection

And then of course you have the supermodel herself, Ms. Naomi Campbell wearing Virgil Abloh more than once.

Jourdan Dunn, Cara Delevingne, Abloh and Karlie Kloss backstage with Virgil Abloh
Jourdan Dunn, Cara Delevingne, Abloh and Karlie Kloss backstage with Virgil Abloh at the Off-White show for Spring/Summer 2019
Karlie Kloss yellow gown
Karlie Kloss

Other models and actresses including Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Candice Swanepoel, Cara Delevigne, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were often photographed in his designs. Here’s Karlie Kloss modeling a bold yellow number at the Fall/Winter 2019-2020 women’s collection for Off-White designed by Abloh. 

Virgil Abloh exhibition Figures of Speech

No celebs in this picture, but this is just incredible. The designer showcased his exhibition Figures of Speech to the media on November 4, 2021 at the Fire Station in Doha, Qatar. No one had any idea that he was battling anything at al. 

Gigi Hadid grafitti jacket
Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid presents an ensemble from the Off-White Spring/Summer 2020 collection.

Vogue has said that Abloh has taken on the fashion industry by presenting an unconventional approach to design. He said it’s because “I came from outside the fashion industry. I don’t have the luxury of creating collections in a traditional way.” This piece worn by Gigi Hadid for his Off-White Spring/Summer 2020 collection at Paris Fashion Week is perhaps one of the best examples of this. The way he accelerated change and brought art and graphic streetwear into the mainstream is something that other designers have attempted to do for decades and haven’t always succeeded. 

The fashion world has truly lost a legend. 

–Simona Shemer

Photos: Feature Image London Fashion Awards Tribute, Vogue, The Guardian, Fashionista, Pop Sugar 

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 Zendaya Is Fashion Icon Of The Year At The 2021 CFDA Awards.

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4 thoughts on “The Life and Fashion of Louis Vuitton Designer Virgil Abloh, Dead At 41”

  1. Last summer, I saw the Virgil Abloh show at the Institute for Contemporary Art. I was so shocked at the news. This is a great piece about his impact on the world of fashion, although he was a visual artist, too!

    Reply

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