US fashion designer Virgil Abloh has died at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.
The influential Louis Vuitton menswear designer and founder of fashion label Off-White was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma – a rare, aggressive form of cancer in 2019, the design house’s parent company LVMH revealed on Sunday.
Abloh first came to prominence as rapper Kanye West’s creative director but later made history as the first African-American to lead French luxury brand Louis Vuitton.
A statement from LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault said: “LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Off-White are devastated to announce the passing of Virgil Abloh on Sunday 28 November of cancer, which he had been battling privately for several years.
“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.
“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.”
A statement on Abloh’s Instagram page described him as “a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend.”
It added: “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.
“We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.”
Abloh was often hailed as one of the most influential designers in the fashion industry but was also a DJ, artist and had degrees in civil engineering and architecture.
He is survived by wife Shannon, children Lowe and Grey, sister Edwina and parents Nee and Eunice.
Tributes have poured in from fashion magazines, designers, celebrities and journalists.
Donatella Versace said: “Virgil, I am lost for words. The world has lost a fashion superstar. An innovator. A creator for the history books. I am thinking of all your loved ones on this tragic day. Love, Donatella.”
Meanwhile, Gucci said: “We would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of Virgil Abloh, an immense inspiration to us all both as a designer and as a person. He will be deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career.”
Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue said: “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.”
Model Hailey Bieber also joined the tributes, writing: “Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply.
“I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him, from walking on his runways to having him design my wedding dress and all the other amazing moments in between, I felt he was always rooting for me.”
Blogger Susie Lau shared a quote from Abloh, saying: “I feel like those restrictions about what a designer should or shouldn’t do are from a previous era. We think without limits.”