Virgil Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants who became fashion's highest profile Black designer and the creative mind behind Louis Vuitton's menswear collections, died on Sunday at age 41, following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.
Abloh, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been men's artistic director for Vuitton, the world's biggest luxury brand, since March 2018.
Abloh founded the Italian luxury streetwear label Off-White, in which LVMH took a 60% stake earlier this year. He was a former collaborator with rapper and fashion designer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who dedicated his latest Sunday Service to Abloh, according to billboard.com.
"Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom," Bernard Arnault, the billionaire boss of Luis Vuitton's owner, French fashion conglomerate LVMH, said in a statement Sunday.
Born in 1980 near Chicago, Abloh and his sister were raised in Rockford, Illinois. According to a 2018 Vogue magazine profile, his mother Eunice Abloh, a seamstress, taught him the basics of the craft at a young age.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master's degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Abloh and Ye became interns at Fendi in Rome, and made the rounds at Paris Fashion Week. By 2010, Abloh worked as creative director for Ye's creative agency, Donda. He also designed album covers for Ye's "Yeezus" and "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy".
His arrival at LVMH in 2018 marked the marriage between streetwear and high-end fashion, mixing sneakers and camouflage pants with tailored suits and evening gowns. His influences included graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture.
The style was embraced by the group as it sought to breathe new life into some labels and attract younger customers.