“Virgil was Here”: The Life and Legacy of Virgil Abloh

     “Fashion is one of the greatest vehicles to merge music, art, architecture, design, typography—it’s a wide enough canvas, or a big enough sandbox, to touch all the different things that I’m into.”

     This is one of the important truths that Virgil Abloh said and lived by.  

     Abloh, founder of Off-White and creative director for men at Louis Vuitton, passed away November 28, 2022 at the age of 41 after privately fighting a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

     Abloh made a mark on the fashion world by being the most prolific black designer of this generation. He will never be forgotten.

     Abloh’s fashion career started in 2006 after completing his master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He claims that studying at Illinois Tech “piqued his interest and opened his gateway into fashion.”

     In 2009, Abloh and friend Kanye West became fashion interns for the fashion power house Fendi in Rome. They designed for several fashion shows including, Paris Fashion Week. Fashion goers were amazed by how Abloh and West brought a modern and futuristic vibe to the runway.

     After their internship ended, West brought on Abloh to assume the role of creative director for his company Donda.

     He started off by designing JAY-Z and West’s album “Watch the Throne”.

     Abloh’s artistic involvement and innovation on this album granted him a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.

     In addition to designing all of West’s tour merchandise and “Watch the Throne”, Abloh designed several of West’s album art like “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Yeezus” and later designed “LONG.LIVE.A$AP”by ASAP Rocky, “Luv is Rage 2” by Lil Uzi Vert, “WZRD by Kid Cudi, “Spaceman” by Octavian, “Pray for Paris” by Westside Gunn and “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon by Pop Smoke.

     These achievements in the music world are just part of his incredible journey.

     After working for West, Abloh decided to create his first fashion label, Pyrex Vision.

     Based out of New York, Abloh collected discontinued Ralph Lauren Flannels and screen printed the word “Pyrex” and the number 23 on the back. The number 23 held a special place in his heart because his childhood hero was Michael Jordan.

     The genius behind this brand wasn’t just the uniqueness of the design, but the profit he made from it. Abloh bought the flannels for roughly $40 each and sold them for $550. He was able to generate such high demand on these products all through social media campaigning.

     Because of his distinctive way of designing for Pyrex Vision, he was able to rebrand and turn Pyrex into his signature brand, Off-White.

     Vogue Magazine describes the fashion house as “the ideas of streetwear, luxury, art, music, and travel defining the brand simply as the gray area between black and white as the color Off-White.”

     In his time of being CEO for Off-White, Abloh managed to make huge strides in the fashion world with his signature, the hovering quotation marks.

     He started off by opening his first concept store in Tokyo, the street wear fashion capital in and created a furniture collection in 2016, and he only grew in 2017.

     Abloh received the British Fashion Award for Urban Luxe Brand and participated in a collaborative exhibition with Takashi Murakami who is known for adapting tradition Japanese art into popular culture.

     Abloh also collaborated with several brands like Jimmy Choo, Warbly Parker, Jacob the Jeweler and IKEA. But the collaboration that people will never forget was his sneaker partnership with Nike.

     The Ten collaboration was to have Abloh re-create 10 of Nikes iconic sneakers and add his “Off-White” touch with items like a safety tag on the laces and words in quotations on lining.

     This collaboration started a frenzy in the hype beast, sneaker collector world. The limited released sneakers attracted buyers of all age groups, ultimately taking Abloh’s name and reputation to new heights.

     Shortly after his sneaker collab, Abloh was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear.

     Abloh ushered in a whole new era for the 167-year-old brand making it more fashion forward with a street-style approach. Unlike other designers in the past, Abloh put men in dresses and styled them with eccentric accessories. He brought vibrant colors to the designs making his collections eclectic yet attractive.

     Louis Vuitton continued to show the spring 2022 men’s collection despite Abloh’s passing just days before. Attendees like Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Venus Williams and longtime friend Kanye west all gathered together to celebrate Virgil incredible feat one last time.

     It is without a doubt that Virgil was the first designer to merge streetwear and designer together. His influence will never be forgotten.

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