Cover Photo: Anton Lim

With the passing of incendiary fashion designer Virgil Abloh, we take a look back at his spectacular career

Earlier today, it was announced that Virgil Abloh passed away at 41, after several years of battling cancer in private.

He changed the fashion industry with his singular vision of streetwear as luxury—the same vision that propelled him to the top job of the world’s biggest luxury fashion house, and to become creative collaborators with the likes of Kanye West.

But the industry-acclaimed Virgil Abloh has spent over a decade earning his stripes in the fashion industry—and it’s a tale worth telling.

We take a look at 10 highlights in the rise (and rise) of Virgil Abloh.

Don’t miss: Rest in Power: Virgil Abloh Dies at 41

1. 2003: The almost-architect

Abloh received his Masters of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He completed an undergraduate in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

Missing his graduation ceremony, a meeting with Kanye’s then-manager John Monopoly saw Abloh put on the rapper’s payroll, offering his opinion and design skills on merch. Pretty soon, Abloh is given full-fledged artistic direction, encompassing global tours, performances and artwork.

Read more: 5 Minutes With... Virgil Abloh, Founder Of Off-White

2. 2009: The curator & Fendi intern

Abloh opens RSVP Gallery in partnership with fellow member of Kanye’s crew, Don C. The conceptual retail space is located in Chicago and stocks edgy luxury brands.

That same year, Abloh is invited by the former head of Fendi, Michael Burke (now CEO of LVMH) to intern at the fashion house alongside Kanye—earning a humble $500/month for his efforts. Abloh impresses Burke with his street-luxe design ideas, and his potential is noted.

3. 2011: The Grammy nominee

Working as the artistic director for Kanye’s creative agency, DONDA, Abloh earns a Grammy nomination for the artwork he produced for Kanye and Jay-Z’s collaborative album, Watch The Throne.

4. 2012: The fashion designer

Abloh debuts his Pyrex Vision collection The grungy streetwear men’s brand sees Abloh repurposing old t-shirts, hoodies and flannel shirts made by Ralph Lauren and Champion, with pieces fetching as much as $500.

He also collaborates with Matthew Williams and Heron Preston on the high-octane brand and lifestyle collective, Been Trill.

5. 2013: The label founder

Abloh launches his new label, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh. Based and produced in Milan, the luxury streetwear brand becomes recognised for its white diagonal stripes and collegiate-style lettering.

In 2014, Abloh debuted the first womenswear pieces for Off-White and makes them part of the brand’s Paris Fashion Week show.

6. 2015: The LVMH Prize nominee

Abloh was one of the finalists—alongside the likes of Demna Gvasalia and Simon Porte Jacquemus—for the prestigious LVMH Prize. He was the only American to be nominated. The prize ultimately went to London-based designers Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques’Almeida

7. 2016: The parader

Abloh debuted his first menswear catwalk show in Paris, which was held at BMCS on the Rue Saint-Honoré. Of the venue, Abloh said, “It sort of has a mini Grand Palais feel to it. It feels very Parisian and historic, and I can come in and juxtapose that with the kind of energy that I’m bringing to it.”

8. 2017: The collaborator

Abloh inks three major design collaborations including the “The Ten” with Nike, which features a reworking of the sports brand’s 10 most iconic sneakers. He taps footwear legend Jimmy Choo for his Princess Diana-inspired spring/summer ’18 show, and collaborates with Ikea on an affordable furniture line for millennials, scheduled to be released in 2019.

9. 2017: The political statement-maker

Abloh is not one to shy away from making a political statement. Last year, during a guest appearance at Florentine menswear tradeshow, Pitti Uomo, the second-generation migrant collaborated with artist Jenny Holzer on to produce a powerful runway show that addressed the international refugee crisis and immigration.

10. 2018: The artistic director

Abloh is appointed Louis Vuitton’s new men's artistic director, following Kim Jones’s departure. He is the first African American to take on the top job for the French fashion house.

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