Virgil Abloh: Three Moments that Changed Everything
As everyone knows by now, the visionary creator of Off-White and the head of Louis Vuitton men's wear, Virgil Abloh, died on November 28, 2021 of a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Cardiac Angiosarcoma. He was was diagnosed two years earlier at the age of 39 and fought his battle privately.
To honor the late artist and designer, who changed the way we view luxury and streetwear, we are going to highlight three moments where Virgil shook the fashion world on its axis.
When Abloh was 22 years old he met friend and life long collaborator Kanye West. In 2009 West asked Abloh and a few friends to join him for Paris Fashion Week. The photograph above is very important not only to Abloh's story but to the overall texture of the fashion industry. This photograph represents a fissure from the past, a new moment arising. Virgil said that he felt like tourists at a purist event, and remarked that he and his friends "knew that the purists needed to sort of see [them]."
Applying Virgil's theory of creative optimism we can see what a poignant moment that was for his evolution as a designer. "So, that photo represents to me what may seemingly be impossible is possible. I didn't think I would be the head of Louis Vuitton then but I knew it was possible."
Pyrex Vision was launched in 2012 and by 2013 it was already beginning to muddy the waters of the term "streetwear." Abloh purchased deadstock Ralph Lauren Flannels for $40 each, and screen printed them with the word PYREX and the number 23, a tip of the cap to his childhood hero Michael Jordan. The flannels went for $550 and sold out in a matter of minutes. Many members of the high end fashion community were outraged, but what mattered was Abloh had caught everybody's attention.
Pyrex Vision would of course go on to become the infamous Off-White and Abloh would continue to elevate the idea of streetwear.
In March 2018, Virgil Abloh made history when he was named the men's wear artistic director of Louis Vuitton—becoming the first African-American to hold the position at the French fashion house.
In June, Abloh presented his first line for the brand at the 2018 Louis Vuitton Men's Show held in the garden of the Palais-Royal in Paris. This is the moment when everything comes full circle. When you compare this image of West and Abloh embracing after the Louis Vuitton Men's Show with the one above of the two taking Paris fashion week by storm, the dream is almost visceral.
The longing for inclusivity in a highly guarded community, the desire to inspire others and the wish to open up doors for other talented black designers; this is the moment where Abloh became a zeitgeist.