LVMH designer Virgil Abloh dies at 41 after battling cancer

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LVMH announced star designer Virgil Abloh died on Sunday after battling cancer for several years. He was 41.

“We’re all shocked,” LVMH Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault said in a post on the group’s official Instagram account. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and a great wisdom.”

His Instagram account said that he “valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments.”

Abloh had been in charge of menswear design at Louis Vuitton since March 2018, infusing the suitcase maker with a youthful twist, as the brand created in 1854 sought to attract more millennials. In July, LVMH named Abloh, the American son of Ghanaian parents, to a wider role at the conglomerate, giving him the authority to create new brands beyond fashion. LVMH also acquired a 60% stake in Abloh’s streetwear brand Off-White, which he’d created in 2013.

When LVMH announced its increased partnership with Abloh, Louis Vuitton Chairman Michael Burke highlighted his “inclusive philosophy.”

Tributes poured in from the fashion world and beyond after news of Abloh’s death. Kim Jones, menswear artistic director at LVMH’s Dior, described him as one of the “kindest you could meet,” while soccer player David Beckham praised him as “a true creative pioneer whose legacy will last forever,” in Instagram posts. Kering SA’s biggest brand, Gucci, said Abloh was an “inspiration to us all.”

In the age of social media, Abloh distinguished himself by gaining more than 6 million Instagram followers, many more than other artistic directors. His posts reflected his daily inspirations, from vintage Nike sneakers to photos of old Mercedes cars as well as his latest creations, collaborations and travels.

Louis Vuitton, whose womenswear design is led by artistic director Nicolas Ghesquiere, is part of the fashion and leather goods unit at LVMH that contributed more than 41% of revenue at the group in 2019.

Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois, on Sept. 30, 1980. He earned a civil engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison before completing a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Abloh is survived by his wife, Shannon, and their two children, Lowe and Grey, Abloh’s Instagram account said.

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