When news broke yesterday that Virgil Abloh - the fashion pioneer who held dual roles of founder of Off-White and artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton - had died at the age of 41, tributes from his friends, followers and fans started flooding in. At yesterday's Sunday Service, Kanye West made the following dedication: 'In loving memory of Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Donda.' Words that cropped up time and time again were 'visionary', 'game-changing', 'trailblazing' and 'multitalented'.
Abloh's kindness was mentioned by many - Gigi Hadid, who walked in many of his shows for Off-White, said, 'His kindness and energetic generosity left a lasting impression on every life he touched - he made everyone feel seen and special,' - while Kai Isaiah Jamal, the poet and spoken word artist who collaborated with the designer at Louis Vuitton, said, 'I don't think he'll be remembered as anything but an icon. I don't think there's a pedestal high enough.'
For such an industrious talent - as well as holding two such influential roles in the luxury fashion world, and being the first Black artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, Abloh was the king of collaborations (IKEA, Nike, Moncler) and a prolific DJ - he took an unusual path into the industry, studying civil engineering and architecture as an undergrad and masters student respectively.
An appreciation for clothes and construction, however, was in his blood (he was taught to sew at a young age by his mother, Eunice). What followed was a career that spanned a multitude of countries - Off-White was based in Milan, Louis Vuitton in Paris, Abloh in Chicago - as the designer became an incubator of future talent, elevating the work of fellow creatives throughout his tenure at Louis Vuitton. He always moved forwards - innovating season after season - while never failing to look backwards, weaving stories and memories of his Ghanaian heritage into his designs. As the tribute posted on his own profile recollected, 'He often said: 'Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself'.'
SEE: Virgil Abloh's Most Memorable Fashion Moments
Hailey Bieber's wedding dress was a masterpiece in marrying the old and new from Abloh. The veil - embroidered with the words 'Till Death Do Us Part' - had his handwriting all over it. Posting yesterday on Instagram, Bieber made the following tribute: 'Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply. I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him, from walking on his runways to having him design my wedding dress and all the other amazing moments in between, I felt he was always rooting for me.'
Off-White's accessories quickly achieved cult status on the street style circuit, especially the brand's wraparound seatbelt belt.
Abloh's pool of inspiration was famously prolific. At Louis Vuitton, he drew from his own Ghanian heritage, telling his family history through the clothes. Speaking to Vogue, Abloh said: 'When I grew up, my father wore Kente cloth, with nothing beneath it, to family weddings, funerals, graduations. When he went to an American wedding, he wore a suit. I merged those two together, celebrating my Ghanaian culture.' For Off-White SS18, Abloh was inspired by Princess Diana, sending cycling shorts, white shirts and polka dots down the catwalk.
Abloh was a streetwear genius, but proved how the genre could blend with its polar opposite - eveningwear - time and time again at Off-White. This shirt dress, complete with a boned hoop skirt, was a case in point on Alek Wek.
Almost every tastemaker has a pair of Off-White x Nike Air Jordans (Roger Federer's a fan).
Men often get the thin end of the wedge on the red carpet. Thanks to Abloh's Louis Vuitton, however, they can now claim equal peacock rights to women. Jeremy Pope's hot pink suit at this year's Tony Awards - finished with a power polo neck - was the best look of the evening. Also see: Timothee Chalamet's harness (major), and John Boyega at the Critics' Choice Awards.
Abloh had an energy for collaborating with fellow creatives, and elevating their work, like no other. For Louis Vuitton AW21, he worked with spoken word artist Kai Isaiah Jamal, who posted a tribute to the designer on their Instagram, which included the phrase: 'He was an ocean of the most beautiful things.'
Serena Williams, the ultimate tennis titan, wore several custom on-court outfits by Abloh.