‘Visionary’ fashion designer Virgil Abloh dies aged 41

Reuters file photo
Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton

PARIS (AFP-Jiji) — Top U.S. fashion designer Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, died Sunday at 41 after battling cancer for several years, the fashion and luxury house’s French owners LVMH announced.

Abloh, the first Black American creative director of a top French fashion house, brought streetwear such as hoodies and sneakers to the catwalk.

He transcended the fashion world and his untimely death at the peak of his career sent shockwaves across the globe, with tributes pouring in from rival design houses but also actors and sportspeople for a man seen as a deeply humane visionary.

“We are all shocked by this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, but also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault said in a statement.

“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,” he added in the statement posted on LVMH’s Twitter account.

The group said he had been “battling privately” against cancer for several years.

Abloh was chosen to be artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection in 2018. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Ghana.

LVMH also announced earlier this year it was taking a majority stake in the luxury streetwear label Off-White created by Abloh. LVMH took a 60% stake in Off-White and Abloh retained 40%.

Abloh has addressed both environmental and social issues in his work with Louis Vuitton, with anti-racist and anti-homophobia messages at his January show in Paris.

He said earlier this year he planned to use his partnership with LVMH “to expand opportunities for diverse individuals and foster greater equity and inclusion in the industries we serve.”

Kim Jones, the artistic director of menswear at French fashion house Dior said: “So sad to hear about the passing of dear Virgil, one of the kindest people you could ever meet.”