Virgil Abloh : his journey towards the conquest of the fashion world

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Last Sunday, November 28th, 2021, we learned that Virgil Abloh had passed away at the age of 41, after battling cancer. Virgil Abloh was, undoubtedly, one of the most talented fashion designers of his own generation. He became famous through his friendship with Kanye West, along with the creation of the streetwear label Off-White and his designation as artistic director for the men’s collection at Louis Vuitton, thus becoming the first black designer to take the helm of one of the biggest houses in the luxury sector. Virgil Abloh was a creator of genius who knew how to mark the history of the fashion world. Flashback on this success story. How did Virgil Abloh conquer the world of fashion as we know it today?

Virgil Abloh’s debut

After studying civil engineering, Virgil Abloh completed his degree with a master’s in architecture and modern technology. In 2002, at only 22 years old, he became Kanye West’s right-hand man, in charge of merchandising for his label, the covers of his albums… 7 years later, the young prodigy flew to Roma, in order to do an internship at Fendi. This internship will inspire him to create a concept store offering an exclusive selection of streetwear pieces in his hometown, Chicago. In 2012, Virgil Abloh launched his first label, Pyrex Vision, which quickly gained notoriety and soon offered exclusive capsule collections in collaboration with Kanye West and A$ap Rocky.

The launching of Off-White

A while after its launch, Pyrex Vision will shut its doors, to make way for Virgil Abloh’s newest project, Off-White. Thus, in 2014, Virgil Abloh created the Off-White label, which embodies a perfect mix between streetwear looks and high-end positioning. The label reaches an international target. How to recognize it? Black and white and diagonal stripes are the brand’s signature. Since its creation, Off-White has been a phenomenal success. Its luxurious streetwear looks have won the hearts of consumers, who never seem to be disappointed. It is through its relevant and recurring presence on social media that the brand has been able to conquer the Millenials.

Increasingly daring collaborations

The success of the brand is obviously due to numerous collaborations, each one more daring than the other. To name a few, as part of the project “The Ten”, Off-White partnered with Nike, presenting 10 exclusive iconic models of the brand with the famous swoosh.

Also, during Spring 2018, the label partnered with Jimmy Choo, unveiling a fearless line bringing together silky PVC film pumps and puffy padded boots.

Then, on the side of design, it is with Ikea that Virgil Abloh decided to collaborate last October. On his Instagram account, we could see the first pieces of his interior design collection, including a navy blue oriental rug, accompanied by white details, and where we can see the following embroidery: “Keep Off”.

Finally, when Gianna Reisen, the youngest choreographer of the New York City Ballet, approached Virgil Abloh for a collaboration, he was quick to agree to produce the monochrome costumes seen in Composer’s Holiday.

Thus, it is through his landmark collaborations that Virgil Abloh has managed to keep the very soul of Off-White, which seems to embody the perfect mix of streetwear, luxury and art. The label defines itself as the gray area between black and white.

The first black designer to be appointed to the helm of a major luxury house

Virgil Abloh, known for his fight for the inclusion of diversity in the fashion world, was appointed, on March 25, 2018, artistic director for men’s collections, at one of the largest luxury houses, Louis Vuitton. He thus became one of the first men of color to reach such a position, in the continuity of Olivier Roustaing at Balmain.

The arrival of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton is synonymous with renewal and refreshment. In an effort to denaturalize the very essence of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh keeps his line driving, adding a touch of luxurious streetwear to his collections. Each season since his arrival, the new artistic director has proposed collections that each take care of breaking obsolete archetypes.

The fashion world pays tribute to Virgil Abloh

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Within hours after hearing the shocking news of Virgil Abloh’s death, the fashion world gathered to pay their respects. Virgil Abloh, in addition to being a creative genius, was a very popular person. The tributes on social media painted his genius, his ideas, as well as his almost superhuman abilities, but above all, they painted the wonderful human being he embodied for 41 years. Here are some extracts, quoted from the article The Fashion World Remembers Virgil Abloh published in Business of Fashion.

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

Matthew Williams, creative director of Givenchy “I can’t find the words…so many beautiful memories together. You were there with me through so many life defining moments, always a supportive friend and positive influence. You have been such an inspiration to me. My heart goes out to your family. Love you brother. I’m going to miss you so much.”

Yoon Ahn, creative director of Ambush and director of jewelry at Dior Men “He talked from the heart with no guidelines with generosity, inclusion, dreams, and thought without limits like an absolute true legend. I, amongst many many others, will continue to carry the torch to which he set aflame for all of us creatives. To the genre and defying human that he was, Rest well @virgilabloh 🕊”

Edward Enninful, editor in chief of British Vogue “Virgil Abloh changed the fashion industry. Famously prolific, he always worked for a greater cause than his own illustrious career: to open the door to art and fashion for future generations, so that they – unlike himself – would grow up in a creative world with people to mirror themselves in. Virgil believed that anything was possible for humankind, if only we could tear ourselves away from unconscious biases and norms and reassume the imagination we had as children. His achievements won’t just live on. They will continue to evolve, because we are only seeing the beginning of his impact on the creative industries and surrounding world. My thoughts are with his family and all those who loved him. Rest in peace, Virgil, a giant among men.”