The trailblazing fashion designer was battling cancer in private for several years

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh has died at 41 of cancer.

The founder of revolutionary luxury streetwear brand Off-White and Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of menswear was reportedly battling cancer in private for several years, the LVMH group said in a statement.

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“We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” said Bernard Arnault in the statement, “The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend.”

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Abloh’s family has also released a statement on his Instagram, sharing more details of the groundbreaking designer’s passing.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues.

For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.

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. He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”

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Tributes have been pouring in from the fashion community, lamenting the loss of a singular designer like Abloh.

“So sad to hear about the passing of dear Virgil one of the kindest people you could meet , many great times spent travelling the world and hanging out in hotel rooms working on the floor and going through Japanese magazines and laughing and talking about ideas … my thoughts to Shannon and the children and the rest of his family,” said Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior Men’s and artistic director of Fendi womenswear and couture.

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LVMH scion Alexandre Arnault also posted a statement on Instagram saying, “Virgil Abloh was the essence of modern creativity. It was always a privilege to work with him in many occasions and I was constantly amazed by the amount of groundbreaking ideas coming out of his brain. Whether it was with Kanye, Been Trill, Pyrex Vision, Off White, Louis Vuitton, RIMOWA, everything he touched pushed the boundaries of creation. On a personal note, he was a dear friend, always giving me the most precious advice, always on point. Thank you for everything you brought to the world Virgil. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, wife and children.”

Gucci’s Alessandro Michele posted a photo of Abloh at his first Louis Vuitton menswear show, saying, “May your kindness illuminate the world of angels. Until we meet again.”

Abloh was a trailblazing designer in many ways: he elevated streetwear to luxury with his inimitable creativity at Off-White, sparking an industry-wide shift to casual cool, and was appointed to the top menswear job in Louis Vuitton in 2018—the first Black designer to hold a major position at any major fashion house.

He was born in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian parents and shot to fame as Kanye West’s creative director. He earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which served him well in his career as a multi-hyphenate creative covering the worlds of fashion, art, architecture, music and design.

Last year, Abloh also started a US$1 million scholarship fund for Black fashion students that would provide scholarships to between 100 and 200 students of academic promise of Black, African American, or African descent, WWD reported at the time.

He has also won multiple awards and accolades from the fashion industry, including the British Fashion Awards “Urban Luxe” award in 2017 and 2018.

Our thoughts go out to Abloh’s wife, children and family in this difficult time.

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