Following the tragic passing of the boundary-breaking Black designer, we take a look back at some of Abloh’s most defining fashion moments.
Tributes have poured in for Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White, following his tragic passing yesterday at the age of 41.
The multi-hyphenate, who was also the artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear, had been privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer, for the past two years.
“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,” wrote a statement on the designer’s Instagram page. “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.”
Gigi Hadid, Jodie-Turner Smith and BTS have all paid tribute to the trailblazer, as has the chairman of LVMH (which owns Louis Vuitton), Bernard Arnault, who said in a statement: “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.”
The Chicago-native rose to prominence in the early 00s as a close collaborator of Kanye West’s and eventually established Off-White in 2012, after a first clothing label, Pyrex, failed to take off.
His brand’s DNA fused streetwear and his trademark hoodies and trainers with the allure and exclusivity of the luxury realm, which eventually led to his appointment at Vuitton in 2018. Abloh’s hiring at the label marked the first time an African American had been hired to lead the menswear arm of the French fashion house.
In only July of last year, the designer had been promoted to a new position within LVMH that would allow him to work across the group’s 75 brands, making him the most powerful Black executive in one of the fashion world’s most powerful luxury conglomerates.
In honour of Abloh and his transcending legacy, we’ve taken a look back at just a handful of his most defining fashion moments over the years.
OFF-WHITE C/O “VIRGIL ABLOH”
Abloh’s label, which he defined as the “grey area between black and white as Off-White”, wasn’t intentionally not just a fashion label, it was a conduit for all of the multi-hyphenate’s creative pursuits, from design and DJing to art and fashion.
In the nine years since its genesis, Off-White has become synonymous with a signature identity of slick designs and zeitgeist slogans with the craftsmanship of haute couture, which was applied across all of the label’s collaborations, from its sell-out line with Ikea to its runway shows at Paris Fashion Week.
VIRGIL ABLOH “POSTMODERN” SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Late last year, Abloh announced that he had raised $1 million to support Black fashion students through his Virgil Abloh™ “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which was in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund.
“I’ve always been passionate about giving the next generation of students the same foundation for success that was given to me,” he said in a statement at the time of its launch.
LOUIS VUITTON SPRING/SUMMER 2019 MENSWEAR COLLECTION
For his debut collection at Louis Vuitton, Abloh pulled out all of the stops to make the label’s spring/summer 2019 show as undeniably future-facing as possible.
Held at Paris’ Palais-Royal, the designer convinced Kid Cudi and Steve Lacy to walk in the show, which featured a multi-coloured catwalk, an intentional nod to the new and inclusive direction that Abloh was moving the brand in.
OFF-WHITE “LABORATORY OF FUN”
Marking the designer’s return to showing at Paris Fashion Week, following a pandemic-induced 16-month hiatus, Off-White’s autumn/winter 2021 collection was brimming with bold brights and directional tailoring.
“This collection speaks in part to my roots as an architect,” Abloh said of the collection. “It signifies an evolution of the Off-White approach, continuing to blur the lines between creative disciplines and inspirations. It’s about pushing the aesthetic forward into a novel, highly explorable space.”
’TILL DEATH DO US PART
Hailey Bieber tapped Abloh to design the first of her wedding dresses for her ceremony in 2018. The lace fishtail dress, which was long-sleeved and off-the-shoulder, featured an Off-White signature slogan on its tail, which read: “‘Till Death Do Us Part.”
“Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply,” Bieber wrote in a tribute on Instagram. “I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him, from walking on his runways to having him design my wedding dress and all the other amazing moments in between, I felt he was always rooting for me.”
IKEA x OFF-WHITE
A further and entirely innovative strand of the Off-White brand came in 2019, when Abloh designed a limited-edition interiors collection for Swedish stalwart Ikea. The collection included rugs, wooden tables and cushions, with Abloh referring to it as ‘fashion you can’t wear’, with the focus being on turning everyday objects into high-concept statement dressing for the home.
“It’s about elevating the anonymous, everyday icons that we use without noticing. When we put a doorstop on one of the legs of an ordinary chair we create something unexpected – an interruption,” Abloh said of the collaboration.
SERENA WILLIAMS “LOGO”
After the black Nike catsuit, which Serena Williams wore to the Grand Slam tennis tournament in 2018 following the birth of her daughter, was banned by the Fédération Française de Tennis, she collaborated with Abloh on her comeback look, which turned out to be one of her best yet.
The result was a one-shouldered black mini, with a tulle skirt and a personalised Off-White “Serena” logo imprinted on the arm of the outfit, which was reminiscent of a ballerina’s uniform.
Images: courtesy of Getty.