Virgil Abloh: The Fashion World's Architect
Virgil was more than fashion; he was a true creative. Born in Rockford, Illinois and eventually working and studying in Chicago, Virgil explored the worlds of fashion, music and artwork. His mother was a seamstress, and from her he learned how to sew. Although his bachelor degree from the University of Madison Wisconsin was in engineering, his Masters from the Illinois Institute of Technology was in architecture. Virgil loved to play with concepts of design and creation. While in college, he designed T shirts and wrote for the fashion blog known as 'The Brilliance'. “I am all about championing this new era of designers becoming the new rock stars, ”he wrote in the blog in 2007. (Vogue, 2018)
Soon and after graduating, Virgil took on an internship at Fendi where he met Kanye West; another fashion forward creative. The two worked in Rome in 2009 and attended Paris Fashion Week creating quite a buzz. Years later, after Virgil's passing, rapper Kendrick Lamar would pay tribute to Virgil in a performance at Paris fashion week where he was the musical score over the Louis Vuitton men's spring 2023 show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdxqym98aKY
Virgil and Kanye West continued to collaborate. West would name Virgil Creative Director for Donda, his creative agency in Chicago. While at Donda Creative Agency, Virgil worked with other artists like Joe Perez to create some of the popular album covers of that time. He is responsible for album art such as 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' and
'Yeezus'. He worked with Givenchy creative director Ricarrdo Tisci to create the 2011 gold foil album cover for 'Watch The Throne'. That album art earned Virgil his first Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.
He also had a creative hand in A$AP Rocky's debut album, 'Long.Live.A$AP' alongside Joe Perez and he created the concept for A$AP's "Fashion Killa" music video. It was the first music video Virgil ever worked on. He went on to later create so may other album covers including Pop Smoke's posthumous album cover 'Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon'. Virgil also directed the "Shake The Room" music video for Pop Smoke.
In 2012, Virgil created Pyrex Vision, a clothing line where he purchased left over clothing from Ralph Lauren that never got to be used and screen printed his own designs on them. He would sell many of the designs for hundreds of dollars. The number 23 was added to many of the shirts in honor of Michael Jordan, Virgil's favorite athlete. Virgil shut down Pyrex Vision after a short stint and later created 'Off White' in Milan. Off-White was a streetwear brand of fashion and quickly rose to popularity in the urban culture as the new luxury "it" label. He described Off-White as the gray area between black and white. The first designs included quotation marks an industrial tape look, and a logo of four arrows pointing away in opposite directions. In 2018, he was named the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear line, making him the first person of color to do so.
In 2019 Virgil collaborated with IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant to create a limited edition collection that included rugs, chairs, clocks and other household items. His IKEA items were in such great demand, that people camped outside of stores the night before the sale launch for a chance to own a piece from Virgil Abloh's Markerad collection. He told Architectural Digest, "I’m the type that’ll oftentimes get a spark of inspiration right away. I’ll never usually have a dull time of no ideas. I feel like now, especially with millennials, there’s no standard for interiors. I wanted a younger generation to appreciate the pure design of these pieces at a level only IKEA could provide."
It was also in 2019 that he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which he chose to keep private while undergoing medical treatments. In November of 2021 Virgil passed away. Celebrities from far and wide, including Frank Ocean, Kim Kardashian, and of course Kanye West shared their shock and grief of the loss of Virgil on social media. LVMH shared on their Twitter account that Virgil Abloh was a genius designer with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. Kendall Jenner shared, "If you had the privilege of knowing Virgil, you were one of the lucky ones." Virgil was 41 when he passed away, leaving behind a legacy in the world of fashion and art that can never be replicated.