Virgil Abloh, Luxury Streetwear King and Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, Dies at 41

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Virgil Abloh walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring Summer 2020 show in Paris Fashion Week on June 20, 2019 in Paris, France.
Virgil Abloh walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring Summer 2020 show in Paris Fashion Week on June 20, 2019 in Paris, France.

The fashion world wept Sunday morning as word spread: Virgil Abloh, founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, had died at age 41.

According to a family statement on his verified Instagram account, the fashion king succumbed to cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer in which a tumor forms in the heart, after being diagnosed over two years ago.

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Abloh’s death was confirmed via a statement posted to the designer’s Instagram account:

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.

We thank you all for your love and support, and we ask for privacy as we grieve and celebrate Virgil’s life.

Raised just outside of Chicago, Abloh first studied architecture as he plotted his future in design alongside contemporaries and collaborators like fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, for whom he was an early Yeezy designer. After launching his own label, Off-White, Abloh quickly became a dominant force in luxury streetwear, soon attracting the attention of execs at LVMH, who tapped him to helm Louis Vuitton’s menswear division in 2018. Among the many accolades of his his too-brief but stratospheric career, Abloh partnered with Nike, designed Serena Williams’ US Open outfits, and designed furniture for Ikea, as well as garnering his own exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in his hometown of Chicago—and a spot in the 2019 class of The Root 100. He also funded numerous philanthropic causes aimed at fostering more designers like himself.

He once told Women’s Wear Daily that his “eyes have always been wide in terms of the fashion, arts and culture and how they can merge together.” Despite being ill, Abloh was ceaseless in his creative output.

LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault told GQ, “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.”

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Abloh’s influence as a designer is hard to measure. He emerged from his role as Kanye West’s creative consigliere with his own vision for fashion, which he made real through his work first at Pyrex Vision and eventually Off-White and Louis Vuitton. If streetwear and fashion are now easy bedfellows, it’s thanks in large part to Abloh’s influence. His appointment as Vuitton’s men’s creative director signaled a change in the fashion industry: both in the types of clothes that were being made and the people responsible for making them. More than that, he helped craft a kind of modern creative life—characterized by endless iteration, constant collaboration, frequent travel, and a global community of collaborators—that almost immediately became the template for active and aspiring designers and artists of all stripes. “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,” the statement on his Instagram said. “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.”

Our thoughts go out to Virgil Abloh’s family, friends and legions of fans.


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