Virgil Abloh, Barrier-Breaking Designer, Is Dead at 41

Virgil Abloh, the barrier-breaking Black designer whose ascent to the heights of the traditional luxury industry changed what was possible in fashion, died on Sunday in Chicago after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer.

For him clothes were not garments but fungible totems of identity that sat at the nexus of art, music, politics and philosophy.

A workaholic who maintained a punishing schedule and moonlighted as a DJ and a furniture designer, Mr. Abloh nevertheless seemed to glory in having his fingers in as many pies as possible.

Virgil Abloh was born in Rockford, Ill., on Sept.

When he was 22 Mr. Abloh met Kanye West.

That was also when he and Mr. West began a six-month internship at Fendi, making $500 a month, and learning the business from the inside out.

Two years later Mr. Abloh and two other men he had met through Donda, Mr. West’s creative incubator, teamed up to create Been Trill, a DJ and creative collective.

And though the fashion world was happy to initially categorize Off-White as a streetwear brand and shove Mr. Abloh into that box, from the beginning, he told GQ, “I was adamant: This isn’t a streetwear brand.

Though his work met with a mixed critical reception and raised eyebrows among the designer community, some of whom considered it more “copying” than “creative,” his influence was unarguable, spreading in part through his early and astute embrace of Instagram .

He opened a major exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago titled “Figures of Speech,” and the next year, after the social justice protests of 2020, established the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, raising $1 million to encourage Black students in fashion.

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