Virgil Abloh, designer, died of cancer aged 41

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An inventive fashion designer and pillar of the fashion world, Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and artistic director for Louis Vuitton, has died of cancer aged 41.

Abloh, a black American, rose quickly to prominence in the fashion industry after bringing off back-to-back huge shows at the Louis Vuitton menswear show in March and the Vuitton women’s show in March. He debuted his first collection for Vuitton in January and this March was appointed as artistic director of the brand’s Maison & Cheveux men’s ready-to-wear label.

The news of his death was confirmed in a statement released by Louis Vuitton. It read: “It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing of Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of Maison & Cheveux menswear.”

Designer Virgil Abloh in his Off-White collection during Paris fashion week. Photograph: JoJo Whilden/AFP/Getty Images

Abloh had been forced to cancel his appearance on France’s NRJ radio show on Sunday after his father was diagnosed with cancer last week. And in January, Abloh was forced to drop out of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s annual fashion awards in New York when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He said at the time: “This is a different ailment than what I had two months ago, but I am very optimistic.”

It was in 2005 that Abloh founded Off-White, a brand of luxury sweatshirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with bold images.

His first piece, a sand camouflage hoodie, featured a black bandana connecting the hood to the chest. He soon began producing t-shirts and hoodies for limited release, selling over two million since the brand’s launch.

He quickly gained recognition as an ambitious up-and-coming designer, launching his own designer label in 2006. The brand was later taken over by Virgil’s sister, Roda Abloh, a longtime Off-White employee.

Abloh’s work has focused on the mixing of streetwear with luxury brands, a brand of creative iconoclasm and sense of style that proved hugely influential with millennials.

Abloh’s ubiquitous “APC” creative director logo adorned numerous garments, and at the Louis Vuitton fashion shows, he chose a plethora of international street artists, including Christian Marclay’s Banksy-esque submission Line Bleu, to work on pieces.

People pay tribute to David Bowie outside his home in New York. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

He has been a key player in the rise of streetwear fashion. He moved to New York in 2006 to work at American streetwear brand APC, and co-founded the streetwear label Off-White in 2011.

Abloh, described by Vogue as “a man who could have been born of art and design, is a man who has mastered both,” was also responsible for curating the Welcome America exhibition in London in 2015 and the opening of the Maison & Cheveux exhibition in Tokyo, both for Vuitton.

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Louis Vuitton’s president and chief executive, Yves Carcelle, paid tribute to Abloh on Twitter: “Louis Vuitton is deeply shocked by the untimely death of its creative director and friend, Virgil Abloh. The maison extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends and collaborators,” he said.

“We are truly filled with admiration for Virgil’s talent and inestimable contribution to the success of the Louis Vuitton menswear, women’s wear and accessories collections.”

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