A year after his untimely death at the age of 41, Virgil Abloh’s influence continues to reverberate across the luxury industry.
His designs remain as popular as ever, as evidenced by Louis Vuitton’s partnership with Dover Street Market Ginza to showcase and sell key pieces created during his four-year tenure as artistic director of menswear for the French luxury brand.
Earlier this year, a Sotheby’s charity auction of his Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” sneakers raked in a record $25.3 million. Proceeds benefited the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” scholarship fund for black fashion students, ensuring his legacy is carried on by future generations of design talent.
In recognition of his impact, the CFDA will posthumously present Abloh with the Board of Trustees Award based on his contribution to global fashion.
Born in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian parents, Abloh was an artist, architect, engineer, creative director and designer. After earning a civil engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
His polymath approach to design laid the foundation for a new generation of designers. In addition to founding the luxury streetwear brand Off-White, he has collaborated with brands such as Nike, Ikea, Mercedes-Benz, Evian, Galerie Kreo, Jacob & Co., Braun, Rimowa, and Moët & Chandon.
Abloh was well aware that some critics did not consider him a bona fide fashion designer, and he addressed the issue in his debut show notes at Vuitton.
“I don’t call myself a designer, nor do I call myself a creator of images. I do not reject the label of either of them. I am not trying to put myself on a pedestal, nor am I trying to be more, now. I would like to define the title of artistic director for a new and different era, ”she postulated.
Abloh joined Vuitton in March 2018, and his first show that year marked a new chapter in fashion: the moment streetwear burst onto the hallowed halls of luxury brands and the first time a designer Negro took the reins of a major luxury brand.
Having risen to fame as the creative director of rapper Kanye West, Abloh launched Off-White in late 2013. The brand made its first showroom appearance in Paris the following January with designs that fused influences ranging from the Bauhaus to clothing sports and Caravaggio.
Off-White made it to the shortlist for the 2015 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, crystallizing the advent of streetwear as a credible challenge to the luxury status quo and cementing close ties with the French group.
Abloh has presented his work at leading design institutions around the world, including the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
In 2019, he had a major exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago called “Figures of Speech”, currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.