Following a private two-year battle with a rare form of cancer, the news of Virgil Abloh's passing on Sunday rocked the fashion world. Tributes to the late designer poured in from Pharrell, Drake and Tyler the Creator on social media, while Kanye West dedicated the latest of his Sunday Service concerts to Abloh.
As the first African-American designer to be appointed artistic director at a French luxury fashion house, Abloh revolutionised the face of the industry with his work across fashion, music, art and architecture. From #BEENTRILL# to Pyrex Vision, Off-White to Louis Vuitton, Abloh's unrivalled work in the fashion industry will be remembered with admiration and love.
Below, we look back at the standout moments that defined his career.
Virgil Abloh and Kanye West papped at Paris Fashion Week (2009)
In 2009, Abloh and Kanye West interned at Fendi in Rome (a year later, Abloh became creative director at West's creative agency DONDA). In a now-mythic photograph for Style.com, the pair were captured in a group photo outside of the Comme des Garçons show in Paris in 2009. Pictured in a blue Moncler puffer vest, bow tie, red-rimmed glasses and acrid yellow trainers, Abloh told W Magazine at the time: 'We were a generation that was interested in fashion and weren’t supposed to be there. We saw this as our chance to participate and make current culture. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were bringing more excitement than the industry was.'
Watch the Throne (2011)
In 2011, Abloh was nominated for 'best recording package' for his work on Jay-Z and Kanye West's wildly successful collaborative album Watch the Throne. As art director of the album, Abloh enlisted Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy’s then creative director) to design the stately gold album artwork. Since then, Abloh art directed album covers for the likes of A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert and Westside Gunn.
Influenced by the frenzy of new youth culture found on the internet and on the streets of big cities, #BEENTRILL# was a fleeting art collective and DJ crew consisting of Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, Matthew M. Williams, Justin Saunders, Florencia Galarza and YWP. Back in 2014, Nick Knight created a trippy fashion film with #BEENTRILL# and KTZ that explored the limitless possibilities of the unconscious mind and the those of the deep web. Mixing old and new with high and low, The Deep Web showcases the early work of Abloh and Williams before they broke into the world of luxury fashion.
Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones discuss streetwear and high fashion (2017)
Abloh released the highly coveted The Ten Nike collaboration in 2017, where iconic shoe models were deconstructed using Sharpies, zip ties, and X-Acto knives. Two years later, Lou Stoppard chaired a conversation with Kim Jones (creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear at the time) and Abloh (his soon-to-be successor at LV) at the Barbican in partnership with the American sportswear giant, which was filmed by SHOWstudio. Speaking of the 'Jordan effect' on fashion and culture, Abloh said, 'Michael Jordan was the superman. He was the person that was doing impossible feats, but he was also our local basketball player... This talk is about how we as a younger generation can plug into this industry that we put on a pedestal.'
Virgil Abloh, Samuel Ross and Stavros Karelis discuss the systems in place for young designers (2018)
For the 2018 edition of The Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, Virgil Abloh sat on a panel discussion with Stavros Karelis, Samuel Ross, Steve Salter and more to discuss whether the format of the fashion industry allowed new talent to thrive. 'We've always been trained to think "who is the next designer?" News flash; it might not be someone who designs in textiles but more materiality. You probably need a chair more than you need another $800 hoodie from me,' said Abloh, who frequently dabbled in furniture design. Speaking of his route into the world of fashion, he said: 'It's in my DNA to support because I came from left-field. I know if you're coming from left-field how much harder the pilgrimage is if you have no one reaching out.'
The Louis Vuitton S/S 19 menswear show (2018)
As the first African-American person to be appointed artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Abloh's debut menswear show for the house was a historic win. At the Palais Royal in Paris, a roster of musicians including Kid Cudi, Steve Lacy, A$AP Nast, Playboi Carti and Bakar walked down a rainbow runway wearing billowing trousers, utility vests and sheer tops, all set to a live score by Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD. Then came the viral, teary hug between Abloh and Kanye West, intimately captured by Takashi Murakami. Who said boys don't cry?
Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2019)
Presented in his hometown of Chicago in 2019, Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” was the first retrospective dedicated to the designer's multifaceted creative career. Covering nearly two decades of Abloh's output, the exhibition featured a surplus of sneakers, a clear Rimowa suitcase, a large prototype of the album artwork for Kanye West's Yeezus, and many more collaborative works made with the help of graphic designers, furniture designers, artists and other fashion designers. An emphasis on dialogue exemplified Abloh's highly collaborative approach and playful use of language and quotation marks, while his eclectic inspirations – from centuries-old paintings by Caravaggio to commonplace signage at construction sites – were highlighted.
MARKERAD, a limited collection by IKEA and Virgil Abloh (2019)
In 2019, Abloh collaborated with IKEA on a limited edition, ironic collection of updated minimalist designs by the Swedish furniture giant. 'It’s about elevating the anonymous, everyday icons that we use without noticing. When we put a doorstop on one of the legs of an ordinary chair we create something unexpected – an interruption,' said Abloh at the time. Standout pieces included a wall clock a wall clock printed with the word “temporary”, a rug resembling an IKEA receipt, a backlit picture of the Mona Lisa and and a green rug that reads “wet grass.” Think of the collaboration as JW Anderson x Uniqlo, but make it furniture.
Virgil was here Louis Vuitton show in in Miami (2021)
Later today, Louis Vuitton will physically re-stage Abloh's S/S 22 menswear show in Miami (the collection was the last he ever designed for the house). First showcased via an extended fashion film Amen Break during the pandemic, the collection explored the idea of legacy and the myth of ownership in contemporary creativity. In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton will pay tribute to the life and legacy of a creative polymath with a presentation tonight at 22:30 GMT. You can watch the show here.