Virgil Abloh, a pioneering artist and designer whose work spanned fashion, architecture, music, and art, died on Sunday, Nov. 28 of cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 41.
His family announced his death Sunday via his Instagram page and revealed that Abloh was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 but chose to fight it privately. In September 2019, he told Vogue that his doctor advised him to take a break from travel. Abloh didn’t say he was dealing with cancer, but he did offer that it took him more effort than usual to bounce back from an overseas trip, which led him to seeing a doctor. The doctor said Abloh’s pace coupled with extensive travel and a heavy workload wasn’t good for his health, and ordered Abloh to work from home for the next three months.
But by January 2020, Abloh, who ran his own brand, Off-White, and served as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s, was back. He made appearances at the Off-White men’s and Louis Vuitton men’s Fall 2020 shows. He then spent the pandemic being just as prolific as he normally was, producing fashion collections from his home in Chicago and launching new resources like the “Imaginary Radio” station, a platform for creatives, Public Domain, a site that cataloged his archival design work for Nike, and the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund for Black fashion industry leaders.
Abloh was an infinitely curious artist and a repository of information, which he showcased through his work. He didn’t call himself a designer, but rather a maker, and abided by a “3 percent approach,” the idea that you only need to change something by 3 percent in order for it to feel recognizable and completely new. It was a philosophy he picked up from one of his biggest influences, Marcel Duchamp, the French-American artist who recontextualized common objects and turned them into pieces of art. Abloh was adept at recontextualizing things through his lens as a first generation Ghanaian-American. He pulled from reference points ranging from Princess Diana and Andy Warhol to the Wu-Tang Clan and skater Stevie Williams. Through his work, which drew in consumers of all ages, he redefined what it meant to be a creative director at LVMH and who should have access to the rarefied institution.