Visionary designer and artist Virgil Abloh, who built a clothing empire based on the Duchampian notion that an original design only needs to be altered by 3% to stay like new, died in Chicago on November 28. ‘heart angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He was forty-one. An architect by training, Abloh turned to clothing after a building designed by Rem Koolhaas that he saw being built on a college campus inspired him to apply architectural restrictions to the clothing structure. Founder of the unicorn fashion house Off-White, renowned for systematically predicting trends in a highly volatile industry, Abloh was at his death CEO of that company and artistic director of the Louis Vuitton men’s clothing collection, the first Afro- American to hold such a position. in a French luxury brand. An accomplished artist, Abloh has collaborated with artists such as Takashi Murakami and Jenny Holzer. the show became the third most popular in the history of this institution. That same year, he co-founded the Figure Skating Collective, with the aim of uplifting young black multidisciplinary artists and contextualizing black identity in design.
Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian immigrant parents. Her father ran a painting business, while her mother worked as a seamstress. After graduating from Boylan Catholic High School, he moved to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. While studying for a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Abloh, who had learned to sew from his mother, apprehended the aforementioned Koolhaas building. Around this time, he started designing t-shirts and regularly posting to the fashion blog The Brilliance. In 2009, Abloh moved to Rome, where he interned at Fendi alongside rapper Kanye West, whom he had met in Chicago while working on his T-shirts at a printing house. The two began to collaborate and the following year, West appointed Abloh the creative director of Donda, the creative agency he named in honor of his mother.
After a brief stint in screen printing on unused Ralph Lauren clothes and selling them for more than ten times the price he got them, Abloh in 2013 founded the streetwear brand Off-White, whose nickname he cited as a reference. to the gray area. between black and white. His first collection for the brand, which referred to both Caravaggio and the Bauhaus, focused primarily on Farnsworth House, the floating glass house designed by Mies van der Rohe in Plano, Illinois. Abloh would refer to structure transparency in projects spanning multiple areas, including a transparent suitcase for a luggage maker and a transparent CDJ and mixer for a turntable maker, which were then on display at the MCA. He frequently incorporated quotation marks into his designs, intended to signify irony and difference; another frequent theme was the yellow barricade tape. Abloh brought these and other elements into a work that has remained fresh despite such constants, with the rising tide of Off-White lifting the ships of other streetwear brands, with the end result that many fashions once considered to be. the origin of the city center. adolescents are now widely regarded as luxury goods. Perhaps following the old adage âIf you can’t beat them, join them,â Vuitton appointed Abloh in 2018 as artistic director of his men’s clothing collection: last summer his parent company LVMH MoÃ«t Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has announced that it will buy a controlling stake in Off-White.
Furiously creative, Abloh kept the irons in multiple fires even as Off-White continued to soar. Art was at the forefront of her many pursuits, including working as a DJ, hosting a radio show, collaborating on furniture collections, and dressing Hailey Bieber for her wedding and Serena Williams for the US Open. Abloh has often teamed up with neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, with whom he designed a clothing line in 2017 in support of immigration and cultural integration. Later that same year, he and Holzer joined forces to design a t-shirt to benefit Planned Parenthood. Another frequent collaborator was the equally energetic Murakami: Abloh exhibited at the Japanese artist’s gallery in Tokyo before working with him on exhibitions for three of the outposts of the Gagosian mega-gallery in 2018. The following year, the Abloh Museum’s inaugural exhibit, âFigures of Speech,â launched at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago before heading to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art; and the Brooklyn Museum.
In addition to co-founding the figure skating collective in 2019, he created the Virgil Abloh âPost-Modernâ scholarship fund in 2020 to support black students interested in fashion. âDiversity is not just about gender and ethnicity,â he told Number earlier this year. âIt’s a question of experience. He brings new ideas to the table. And it would be nice if the fashion industry would listen to them and take them into account. “