Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection and the founder of his own fashion house Off-White, died on Sunday. He was 41. Abloh privately fought cancer, Louis Vuitton's parent company LVMH and Off-White announced Sunday afternoon. The Rockford, Illinois native made history as the first African-American creative director at a French luxury fashion house and was a longtime collaborator with Kanye West.
"We are all shocked after this terrible news," LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault said in a statement. "Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joined 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."
"We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend," Abloh's family shared on his Instagram page. "He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues."
His family said Abloh was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma two years ago. Cardiac angiosarcoma is a rare tumor that occurs in the heart, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. He had "numerous challenging treatments" while continuing to work, his family said. "Through it, all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered," they added. "Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design."
Abloh was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2009, he interned at Fendi in Rome, alongside West. The two became creative partners, with Abloh serving as the creative director for DONDA. He found mainstream success on his own after establishing Off-White and collaborating with major brands and artists. In March 2018, he was named the new artistic director for Louis Vuitton's menswear ready wear line. This past summer, LVMH took a 60% stake in Off-White.
Abloh's decision to join Louis Vuitton reportedly created a short-lived feud with West, but it ended when the two were seen sharing a hug at the 2018 Paris Louis Vuitton show. Sources told TMZ the two friends stayed close in recent years, with West also one of the few people who knew Abloh was ill. Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon and their two children.
Many celebrities who knew and worked with Abloh have already shared tributes to his life on social media. "My heart is broken. Virgil, you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius. Your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever. Sending love and light to your wife, children, family, and day ones. You're with the Master now, shine," musician Pharrell Williams wrote. "Too soon Virgil. You will be missed from this world man," actor Idris Elba added.