Virgil Abloh, a leading fashion designer who brought streetwear to high couture as artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear and founder of the label Off-White, died Sunday. He was 41, and a statement on Abloh's Instagram account said his death followed a private two-year battle with "a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcom."
Before Louis Vuitton named Abloh artistic director of menswear in 2018, he had already established himself as "one of the most influential and powerful Black designers of his generation" as well as "an artistic polymath," The Washington Post reports. He moonlighted as a DJ at large festivals and concerts and won a Grammy in 2011 for art direction on the Kanye West–Jay-Z album Watch the Throne. His design collaborations also included Nike sneakers, Ikea furniture, Evian refillable water bottles, and McDonald's Big Mac cartons.
Abloh, who referred to himself a "maker," was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2018. "We are all shocked by this terrible news," Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy chief executive Bernard Arnault said in a statement Sunday. "Virgil was not only a genius designer and a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. "
Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1980 to Ghanian immigrant parents. He had no formal fashion training, though his mother, a seamstress, taught him how to sew. Abloh earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master's in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He is survived by his wife, Shannon Abloh, and children Lowe and Grey.