Virgil Abloh has become a prominent name in the fashion industry over the last decade as one of the most influential cultural tastemakers of the 21st century. From being known as the creative director of Louis Vuitton to the founder of Off-White, Abloh was a real multidisciplinary as an entrepreneur, DJ, industrial designer, and even philosopher. The 41-year-old designer renewed the interest of consumers in streetwear by reinventing it for a whole new generation.
The entire fashion industry found itself suddenly in shambles when news broke of Virgil Abloh’s passing after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma in Chicago on November 28th, 2021. As a creative who not only triggered the streetwear phenomenon but redefined what “creative” meant in the world of fashion, Abloh’s far-reaching influence became all the clearer when seen in retrospect, which, alongside his qualities of humanity, warmth, empathy, and wisdom, marked him out as a true once-a-generation rarity.
Beginning his fashion career in 2009 as an intern at Fendi, Abloh’s genius was recognised in 2018 when he was been named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. The rest is history. We celebrate the path-blazing and barrier-breaking career of Virgil Abloh by looking back at some of the most important moments in his career.
2010: Donda's Creative Director
At the time the photo was taken in 2009, nobody knew who these people with Kanye West were. He brought some of his friends to Paris for Fashion Week, and each of them has gone on to do great things individually. On the far right is Abloh, who eventually became the creative director of West’s creative incubator Donda. The following year, alongside Riccardo Tisci, he took the role of artistic director for the collaborative project between West and JAY-Z, Watch The Throne, which earned him a Grammy nomination. That eventually proved to be his first step into the fashion spotlight.
2012: Pyrex Vision Launches
The following year, Abloh launched his first fashion brand, Pyrex Vision, in New York, in which he purchased deadstock Ralph Lauren flannel shirts for $40 USD each, screen-printed the word ‘Pyrex’ on them with the number 23 as an homage to his childhood hero Michael Jordan, and sold them for $550 USD a pop. It was controversial but also saw massive success as Abloh translated his skills from his training as an architect and engineer into the fashion world.
2013: Off-White’s Debut
Photo by Kasia Wandycz/Paris Match via Getty images
Pyrex Vision was then rebranded as Off-White in 2013, quickly becoming one of the most talked-about brands in the world. It rapidly garnered the same admiration for brands like Supreme, BAPE, Gucci, and Prada by taking a modern approach and blurring the lines between streetwear and luxury fashion. The signature Helvetica font and stylised quotation marks with zip ties and barricade tape generated many other imitators. Through Off-White, Abloh added fuel to his success by collaborating with Rimowa, Moncler, IKEA, Champion, and even Nike. Speaking of which...
2017: "The Ten" and Nike Collaboration (2017)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Abloh’s monster collaboration series with Nike redefined the idea of luxury sneakers, just as the world was seeing the streetwear phenomenon as a breath of fresh air. It helped elevate the value of sneakers and proved that sneaker collaborations are more sophisticated than a simple co-branding operation. “The Ten” spoke highly of Abloh’s vision as somebody who could speak for the new generation of consumers, and has remained a high point within the development of streetwear.
2018: Abloh’s First Louis Vuitton show
The visionary quickly shook the world when he was given the role of artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s ready-to-wear line. Abloh was the first person of African descent to be given such a high-ranking role, and his debut at the Louis Vuitton SS19 fashion show at Palais Royal in Paris proved to the world that he was a force to be reckoned with. Present at the landmark event were rappers, skaters, and creator friends as models, making clear that Abloh saw himself as somebody responsible for opening the door for more diversity at the upper echelons of fashion. The embrace that Abloh and Kanye West shared at the end of the show was the culmination of a friendship and mentorship that has changed the world.
2021: Partnership with LVMH
Photo by Estrop/Getty Images
By July 2021, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), acquired 60% of Off-White to expand Abloh’s role by incorporating the brand into 75 different brands, from luxury wine to yachts during LVMH’s new stage of evolution. That established Abloh to become one of the most influential black executives in the world, which proved to be the highest point of his career as he paved the way for a new generation of fashion creatives and modernising the entire industry itself.
Rest in power, Virgil.
Cover Credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.