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Virgil Abloh
Via Wikimedia Commons

Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and more lead tributes to Virgil Abloh

The pioneering designer, Off-White founder, and Louis Vuitton artistic director has passed away, aged 41

Virgil Abloh, the game-changing fashion designer, Off-White founder, and Louis Vuitton artistic director, passed away yesterday (November 28) at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.

LVMH announced Abloh’s death in a message shared by the conglomerate’s CEO Bernard Arnault. It read: “We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother, or their friend.”

Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection, titled ‘Virgil Was Here’, will be presented in Miami on Tuesday (November 30), the French fashion house has announced. “In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton pays tribute to the life and legacy of a creative genius with a presentation of his SS22 collection,” LV wrote on Twitter. According to Highsnobiety, the show was planned by Abloh, with LV chairman and CEO explaining that the presentation will go ahead “per his wishes”.

Abloh’s friends, colleagues, and fans have since taken to social media to pay tribute to the pioneering artist. Kanye West, Abloh’s close friend and collaborator, dedicated his latest Sunday Service installment to the designer. West shared a livestream of the choir’s moving performance of Adele’s “Easy On Me”, followed by a message that read, “In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Donda”.

On Instagram Stories, Frank Ocean shared two photos of himself and Abloh at the 2021 Met Gala, accompanied by a handful of the musician’s memories of the designer. “In 2018, I called V and asked him how it was possible to play hundreds of shows a year and do numerous fashion collections, and be a father and a husband and return EVERYONE’s texts with enthusiasm and emojis and encouragement, and seemingly… with ease,” wrote Ocean. “The gist of his response was that he was interested in living, and living to the maximum extent of his level… which proved to be impossible today because he was BEYOND. I know grief is love that you don’t get to express, so this is an attempt at expressing it. Love you V. You’re a hero.”

The Hadid sisters have also paid tribute. Alongside a photo of herself hugging Abloh, Gigi wrote on Instagram: “I am heartbroken. He was one of one. His kindness and energetic generosity left a lasting impression on every life he touched. It will never be the same without him in the room. Rest easy, my friend. You are so loved. You were the difference.”

Bella posted a selection of photos of herself and Abloh, and said: “I’m at a loss. He was someone to everyone. That was the magic power he held. He made every person he came across feel special in whatever way he possibly could. Even when the world felt sad, he brought laughter, colour, and beauty. The most beautiful warrior soul. I can’t believe this.”

Kendall Jenner described Abloh as “the kindest, most positive, humble, joyful, and full of light person I have ever known”, adding: “To battle his illness privately perfectly explains the type of man he was, he never wanted anyone to worry about him. He leaves us with his influence, to create and change the world. You did just that Virg.”

Alongside a photo of herself in her wedding dress – which was designed by Abloh – Hailey Bieber said: “Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply. I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him. A once in a generation creative mind that is so rare, and I’ll never forget his impact.”

Other fashion designers have also paid their respects. Donatella Versace said that “the world has lost a fashion superstar”, while Gucci’s Alessandro Michele wrote: “May your kindness illuminate the world of angels. Until we meet again.” Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing credited Abloh with bringing “lights to entire generations”, and said he “made it clear that everything is possible”.

Abloh was born in Chicago in September 1980, and – after studying civil engineering at university – first found his footing in the fashion world during an internship at Fendi, which he did alongside Kanye West. From there, Abloh launched his first label Pyrex Vision, before founding Off-White in late 2013. In 2018, Abloh was announced as the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, making history as the first African-American man to helm a historic maison. During his phenomenal career, Abloh also committed to supporting a new generation of creatives, funding scholarships for Black students and providing mentorship to fledgling designers.

Read more tributes to Virgil Abloh from Timothée Chalamet, Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci, A-COLD-WALL*’s Samuel Ross, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, and others below.