Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer aged 41, was a force of fashion. A multidisciplinary artist who disrupted the fashion industry by taking an unconventional approach to design—“because I came from outside the fashion industry, I don’t have the luxury of creating collections in a traditional way,” is how he put it—Abloh accelerated change.
Born in Rockford, Illinois, this skateboarder and DJ became active in the streetwear scene while earning his Master’s in Architecture. His formal adventures in fashion started around 2009 when he teamed up with Kanye West. Abloh launched his own line, Off-White, in 2013. He became the first Black man to head a French luxury house when he became the creative director for Louis Vuitton Men’s in 2018. In 2015 Vogue described the future-focused designer as a “World Wonder;” by 2019 the magazine had dubbed Abloh “The Man Who Styled the World.”
Always on the move, Abloh seemed to spend as much time in the air as on the ground, but the designer’s worldliness can’t be attributed to travel alone; rather, it was his simultaneous engagement with different disciplines or worlds that added depth and layers to his work. “All the influences, the conversations, the people, the last-minute dinner, or the conversation with the artist: These things spark something in me, and they wouldn’t happen without the randomness that comes from being in a lot of different bubbles at a particular time,” Abloh told Vogue.
The designer was able to take in influences on a granular level without losing sight of the big picture; he believed in a global unity that respected difference. And he made room for other voices and point of view in his work. Off-White, he once said, “is an empowered brand. My job is not to control and grasp it, which is like trying to grab a feather. My job is to sort of be a spirit leader.”
Here, a look back at the man and his work, as seen by Vogue.