Virgil Abloh, a pioneering Black designer for Louis Vuitton and his own streetwear brand Off-White, unexpectedly died Sunday, LVMH announced.
Abloh, who was 41, died after a two-year battle with “a rare, aggressive form of cancer” called cardiac angiosarcoma, according to a statement posted on his Instagram, a health issue that was unknown to the public until his death.
Abloh “chose to endure his battle privately” and underwent “numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture,” the statement read.
Abloh was “not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom, ” LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault said in a release.
Davide de Giglio and Andrea Grilli, of Off-White’s parent company, said “there are no words to describe the loss that his passing leaves in our lives.”
“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. 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,” the Instagram statement read.
Abloh was the first African-American designer for Louis Vuitton, a nearly 200-year-old French fashion house. He joined the brand in 2018 after the success of his streetwear company Off-White, a Milan-based brand he started in 2012. Off-White is known for its self-aware fashions, with many of its styles featuring product descriptions on them in quotes. Off-White has famously collaborated with Nike and Ikea, and Abloh designed model Hailey Bieber’s wedding gown through the label. Abloh was born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Ghana, according to Vogue. He was close to Chicago native, rapper and fashion designer Kanye West— the two interned together at Fendi. Abloh later designed the cover and served as artistic director for West’s album “Watch The Throne,” and also influenced the covers of “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” A multi-hyphenate artist, Abloh also performed music and made paintings and sculptures. A collection of his artwork, Figures Of Speech, is touring at museums around the country. He married Shannon Sundberg in 2009 and was the father of two children, Grey and Lowe.
By Marisa Dellatto, Forbes Staff