Fashion and Retail Association
Remembering Virgil Abloh
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
By: Alex Germain
Last Thursday, the fashion world experienced the sudden and shocking loss of Virgil Abloh, who lost a battle with cancer at the age of 41. Having been recently appointed the artistic director of Louis Vuitton, his impact on the world of fashion, design, and culture cannot be overstated. He rose to become one of fashion’s most well known designers, and his connections within the music world spread his influence even further. He was a true multi-hyphenate, and designed everything from clothes to cars to furniture, leaving his unique stamp and design philosophy on whatever he touched. Virgil’s career has taken an unconventional path, and understanding this is essential to understanding his legacy.
Virgil’s first foray into the fashion world began in 2009, when he interned at Fendi along with Kanye West. This is where he learned the ropes of the industry, and got his foot in the door within the world of high fashion. In the same year, he launched the Chicago boutique RSVP Gallery along with Don C, another Kanye affiliate. In 2011, he was named creative director of Kanye West’s creative agency Donda, and designed the album cover for the 2011 album Watch The Throne by Jay Z and Kanye West.
In 2012, Abloh launched his brand Pyrex Vision. Envisioned more as an art piece than a brand, Virgil bought Ralph Lauren and Champion blanks and screen printed his own designs on top of them. With Virgil saying, “It was a ten-minute film that I wanted to make, and I needed clothing to support this idea of a team with no sport. I was very intent on stopping it before it really got started”, about Pyrex, the brand didn’t last long. However, it’s impact on what defined luxury and streetwear was profound, and it showed Virgil’s talent for disruption in the fashion world.
Just one year later in 2013, Abloh launched his brand Off White. Designed to push the boundaries, Virgil had ambitious goals for Off White, saying “This isn't a streetwear brand. This isn't a contemporary brand. This is designer, just the same way that X, Y, Z are designer, where you say their name and it carries this whole esteem and emotion to it.” Abloh wanted to bridge the ideas of luxury and street fashion, and create dialogue between opposing ideas. Off White went on to collaborate with Nike on highly successful sneakers, which resale for upwards of $1,000, and work with brands such as Chrome Hearts and Rimowa.
In 2018, Virgil Abloh made history as the first black creative director for a French fashion house, when he was appointed the creative director of Louis Vuitton. Virgil showed people anything was possible, and his appointment broke down doors for young, black youth to work in a system which traditionally marginalized them. He injected a more modern, streetwear edge to Louis Vuitton, and designed whimsical collections which showed his influences on his sleeve. He directly involved his passion for music within his work, and often combined his talents as a DJ and a designer. Abloh truly transformed Louis Vuitton, and his impact will be felt for generations.
Virgil Abloh was a trailblazer, and his impact and influence across culture will be felt for a very long time. His iconic and daring designs will live on, and the generation he influenced to break down doors and take advantage of their own potential will follow in his footsteps. Rest in peace, Virgil Abloh.