What Happened to Virgil Abloh?

Virgil Abloh
Photo: YouTube screengrab from The New York Times. Video shared below.

Virgil Abloh, a renowned designer, passed away in 2021 at 41 after battling a rare cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He was a creative force in fashion, known for his innovative designs and blending streetwear with luxury. Virgil’s contributions to brands like Louis Vuitton and his own label, Off-White, left an indelible mark on the fashion world.

Early Life: A Look at his education background

Virgil Abloh was born in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois. His parents were Ghanaian immigrants. He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before proceeding to the Illinois Institute of Technology for a master’s degree in architecture. 

While he was at IIT, an incomplete building on the campus designed by Rem Koolhaas sparked his interest in fashion. He was also inspired by a modernist masterpiece, Crown Hall, designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Virgil’s master’s thesis involved the design of a Chicago skyscraper that curved toward Lake Michigan. While still a student, Virgil designed T-shirts and became a fashion and design blogger for a reputable blog. 

Where It All Started: Let’s take a look at Virgil Abloh’s work life

It’s worth noting that Virgil interned at Fendi before moving to Paris to work as a freelance menswear designer. He then founded Off-White’s streetwear brand, quickly gaining a following among fashion insiders.

Virgil was later appointed Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director, making him the first black person ever to hold that position at a major fashion house. He also founded the streetwear brand Off-White, which has been hugely successful.

However, Abloh later announced that he would be leaving Louis Vuitton, and as a result, Off-White was sold to the Swiss conglomerate LVMH. There was no official word on why Abloh left Louis Vuitton, but it is speculated that it may have been due to creative differences.

Virgil was relatively unknown in the fashion industry in his early career days. But in just a few years, he became one of the industry’s most sought-after designers. His rise to fame is partly due to his unique approach to design, which blends streetwear with high fashion. It also has much to do with his close relationship with Kanye West, who has helped promote his work to a broader audience.

His debut collection for the brand was widely praised, and his designs have become some of the most coveted items in the fashion world. The first time Virgil met Kanye West was when he worked on his fashion designs at a print shop in Chicago.

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Tributes after his death

Virgil’s death came as a shock to music, fashion, and art enthusiasts. Many of his fans and followers paid tribute in different ways, with some sharing personal anecdotes. A unique tribute came from Lil Durk in a video titled “What Happened to Virgil?”

Inside Lil Durk’s tribute: “What Happened to Virgil?”

Lil Durk created a video, “What Happened to Virgil?” as a tribute to the fallen icon, Virgil Abloh. Cole Bennett directs the video, and it features Gunna. It is a follow-up to Lil Durk’s solo album up7220.

It is the memory of the late great artist, architect, and designer. The video starts with Vigril’s heavenly sky-blue palette and a quote saying, “Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.” 

Through his drip, Gunna also honored Virgil with his typical Gunna flair. In the video, he is wearing the extremely rare “There’s only one,” the 2019 Michael Jackson Louis Vuitton Fall Winter Show invitation glove. Virgil designed this original white crystal-studded glove to pay tribute to Michael Jackson. The glove is rich in Swarovski, an iconic symbol for MJ as the King of Pop. 

A deeper look at the meaning of the video

The video was shot in Chicago, home to both Virgil and Durk. The two friends worked together for many years, making it safe to say they developed a creative partnership. Durk tapped Virgil to design the album artwork and merchandise for the rapper’s album, “Love Songs for the Streets II.” Virgil and Durk collaborated on many fashion projects, including a capsule collection for VLONE and a limited-edition Off-White hoodie.

The video’s on-screen messages are dedicated to Dontay Banks Jr. (DThang) and King Von. Dontay Banks Jr. is Lil Durk’s late brother, while King Von is his longtime collaborator. The scenes in the video are recreations of Virgil’s incredible cultural artifacts and fashion runways. The entire video’s design and production are inspired by Virgil, including “Air Drake,” a private jet Virgil designed for Drake.

The video set-up portrays Virgil’s impact and ubiquitous presence in the lives of his many friends, collaborators, and fans worldwide. Below is a breakdown of Virgil’s legacy through the video

Off-White’s Flagship Store in Miami

The video opens by showing Lil Durk walking through a flower garden. This represents the most precious moment in Virgil’s career: launching the Miami Off-White store. In 2020, Samir Bantal (AMO’s director) and Virgil designed the Off-White store as a multipurpose events arena and fulfillment center. 

After the death of Virgil, all OFF-White stores worldwide put flowers in place of their products to honor Virgil’s life as the founder. Before launching the Of-White label in 2012, Virgil had worked with Bantal on “Figures of Speech,” where much of his work is exhibited at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Chicago. The ready-to-wear artisanal brand fits to be mentioned alongside Louis Vuitton, explaining why Durk captured Off-White and MCA side by side in the video.

2022 Winter Paris Fashion Presentation/Louis Vuitton’s Fall Show

After the flower garden scene, the video moves to a location showing a title card. This scene pays homage to Abloh’s love for quotations. The cards’ texts are written in Helvetica font over the 2022 Winter Paris Fashion/Louis Vuitton’s Fall Show background.

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Louis Vuitton staged this show to commemorate the 2022 Fall/Winter collection during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris. The spectacle lasts for about 20 minutes, but it consolidates the messages and themes of the eight-season arc created by Virgil for LVMH.

The Carreau du Temple hosted the runway show to appreciate Virgil’s contributions to LVMH. The celebrities gracing the occasion included Naomi Campbell, J. Balvin, The Creator, and Tyler.

Private Jet: “Air Drake”

Gunna and Durk are on the runway almost throughout the entire video. They can be seen standing behind Drake’s private jet, designed by Virgil and called “Sir Drake.” The plane is painted blue with cloud patterns resembling the cover of Drake’s album, which he released in 2013 (Nothing Was The Same).

Virgil’s often-displayed and genuine love for rap is indisputable. He was more than a hip-hop designer; he was also a leader and a philanthropist. Not only that, but he was also an architect and world-builder who used fashion to challenge established beliefs.

Virgil Abloh’s memory will linger forever

Virgil changed the fashion industry in several ways. In just a few short years, he hugely impacted the industry. He was a champion of diversity in fashion, casting models of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities in his shows. Virgil was fearless in taking risks with his designs or business ventures. The fashion designer and artist will be remembered for the following:

From streetwear to the catwalk, his unique style has influenced fashion in a significant way. Abloh’s unique style, combining streetwear with high fashion, has influenced him significantly and made him one of the best d. His name has been on everyone’s lips in the fashion industry for the past few years. 

Off-White became one of his most popular streetwear brands thanks to his unique designs and the ability to appeal to luxury and streetwear audiences. His style has been described as “streetwear meets high fashion.” He frequently took inspiration from streetwear brands and designs, then added his luxurious twist to the pieces.

His designs for Louis Vuitton and Off-White pushed fashion forward

Virgil Abloh’s unique designs for Louis Vuitton and OffWhite have pushed fashion forward in a big way. For example, he made fashion more inclusive. Abloh’s designs are very inclusive, with sizing more representative of the average person. 

He has also collaborated with many plus-size models and designers to create flattering looks for all body types. This has helped make fashion more accessible to everyone. His willingness to experiment with new materials, silhouettes, and colors has helped him create looks ahead of other designers.

Virgil Abloh brought black culture and talent into the spotlight

Virgil Abloh was the first black American to head the lucrative Louis Vuitton men’s wear outlet in 150+ years. Other than that, he was also among the most talented black designers to head this luxury brand. While at the company, he created a diversity panel, which he used to advocate for increased and diversified representation. He also used his position to develop a collection that highlights black culture. In 2019, he created an exhibition celebrating Martin Luther King’s legacy of calling for freedom.

Virgil Abloh helped raise funds for important causes

Abloh went beyond changing the art and fashion worlds. He launched several initiatives to collect funds to support healthcare. For example, in 2017, the artist initiated a fund drive whose proceeds he donated to the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood program. 

He also organized another fund drive to support the British Lung Foundation and the American Red Cross. In 2018, Abloh worked with Equinox on a fund-raising exercise in support of Cycle for Survival to help fight rare cancer.

He supported black leaders in the fashion industry

Virgil influenced the next generation of fashion leaders greatly. For example, in 2020, he raised one million dollars, which he channeled to the “post-modern” fund for scholarships. He did this alongside the Fashion Scholarship Fund. Besides raising funds from some of his corporate partners, New Guard Group, Louis Vuitton, Farfetch, and Evian, he also made donations.

The students who qualified for the scholarship received $5,000 each, which was paid for summer internships in various companies, particularly those in the fashion industry. The students also received mentorship from top fashion industry experts and had access to resources that promote professional development and FSF career programming. The artist created the scholarship fund to help foster the inclusion of black students in the fashion industry.

Virgil Abloh took the lead

Virgil led by example. He wanted his compassion and hard work to inspire other artists and help the younger generation have a role model they could admire. He stated that, just as other outstanding black leaders inspired him, he recognized the importance of being among the black role models who can guide young Black Americans. 

Bottom Line

In conclusion, Virgil Abloh was a highly influential and respected designer in the fashion industry. His unique approach to design, blending streetwear with high fashion, helped him rise to fame and become one of the best designers in modern days. Virg work at Louis Vuitton and his brand, Off-White, was widely praised, and his designs became some of the best fashion accessories. 

His death at 41 shocked many in the music, fashion, and art communities, and his fans paid tribute in various ways, including the video “What Happened to Virgil?” by Lil Durk. Virgil Abloh’s legacy will continue to inspire and influence future designers in the industry.

Virgil Abloh did a lot, and his death was a big blow to the fashion industry. Notwithstanding, his legacy is available for aspiring fashion enthusiasts to learn from and better themselves.