Original title: Virgil Abloh, 41-year-old creative director of men’s wear, has passed away
21st Century Business Herald reporter Liang Xin comprehensive report
LVMH Group, Louis Vuitton and Off-White jointly announced that Virgil Abloh had been privately fighting and receiving treatment for a rare cancer for several years, and finally passed away on November 28 at the age of 41. From 2018 until his death in 2021, Virgil Abloh has served as the creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear and the design of his personal brand Off-White founded in 2012.
Bernard Arnault, Chairman of the LVMH Group, expressed his deep condolences in the statement: “Virgil is a talented designer. He has a beautiful soul, vision and wisdom. The LVMH family expresses our sorrow, and we are also with his loved ones. I miss him as a husband, father, son, brother and best friend.” Off-White’s parent company NewGuards Group Chairman and CEO Davide DeGiglio and Off-White CEO Andrea Grili’s official presentation at Off-White According to Instagram, Virgil Abloh is not only a visionary genius, but also a family member.
And Virgil Abloh’s personal Instagram account tells more about Virgil Abloh’s experience of fighting a rare and aggressive cancer-cardiac angiosarcoma for more than two years. Since his diagnosis in 2019, he has chosen to endure the battle with the disease silently and has experienced countless challenging treatments, but while enduring the pain and receiving treatment, he still persists in his work and leads several companies that span fashion, art and culture. .
From non-subject to fame
Virgil Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois on September 30, 1980 to Ghanaian immigrants to his parents. According to the introduction of Vogue magazine in 2018, his mother Eunice Abloh was a tailor, and it was she who taught Virgil Abloh the basics of tailoring craftsmanship when he was very young. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Later, the 22-year-old Virgil Abloh met Kanye West (now renamed Ye), a well-known American musician. Kanye, who admired Virgil very much, naturally became the guide for him to enter the fashion circle. During the days when he was in the circle with Kanye, Virgil often had the opportunity to go to Paris to watch shows.
Later, Virgil Abloh mentioned that period in an interview with GQ. He said: “Streetwear is not in the scope of anyone’s attention, but after the performance, everyone chats at the dinner party, always saying “fashion needs new things”. But in fact it has stagnated.” Also since then, he and Kanye started a six-month internship at Fendi, earning $500 a month, learning fashion-related businesses from the inside to the outside.
In 2010, he became the creative director of Kanye’s creative incubator Donda, helping Kanye turn ideas into reality. Two years later, Virgil Abloh founded Off-White, a high-end streetwear brand.
In 2018, he became the first black art director of Louis Vuitton, creating a new history. His joining marks the marriage of streetwear and high-end fashion, and integrates sneakers and camouflage pants elements with tailor-made suits and evening dresses, and has profoundly influenced the brand with graffiti art, hip-hop and skateboarding culture.
In July of this year, LVMH acquired a 60% stake in Off-White and announced that Virgil Abloh will play a more important role in the hotel, wine and spirits sectors. It is understood that Virgil Abloh’s basic annual salary in the LVMH group is US$10 million, and his personal net worth is US$100 million.
Recently, Virgil Abloh has also made many public appearances, including participating in the Met Gala in September this year and the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize Gala on November 3rd. Therefore, many people felt that the news of this death was very sudden.
The controversial 3% theory
As the first African-American to serve as the art director of an aircraft carrier-weight fashion house like Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh naturally attracted enough attention, and praise and doubt always accompanied him.
At first, many people worried that Louis Vuitton would lose its original tonality under the helm of Virgil’s “groundedness”, and it would be rejuvenated and street-oriented forever. In this regard, Louis Vuitton gave a full trust and answer: “From the mid-19th century to the 1920s, and now, the brand caters to the upstart class, not the old rich class.”
Virgil has injected new vitality into the maverick style brand to cater to the concerns of many young customers for luxury brands. Thanks to the appointment of Virgil Abloh, LVMH sales increased by 20% in 2019. He used his strength to fight back the criticism best.
In addition, there are critics who believe that Virgil, who is not a major, as the art director, is a kind of hype in itself. What is more, the design made by Virgil is not his own originality, but a kind of imitation, copying and even plagiarism.
Because Virgil once put forward a famous design guiding principle “3% theory (3 Percent Approach)”: any design can become its own new design as long as it changes 3%. Some insiders explained that the 3% theory may also contain two levels of meaning. One is that Virgil Abloh feels that designers must exercise extreme restraint and implement purism; the other is based on classic design.
But when the target of this approach is Louis Vuitton products, it will inevitably attract a lot of public criticism, because Virgil’s design contains too many classic elements of other brands. But Virgil said: “Duchamp is my lawyer.”
Dada artist Duchamp created an artwork “Spring” in 1917. This artwork is essentially an inverted men’s urinal with the words “R. Mutt” written on it. This anti-art and irrational work caused a sensation in the art world at that time.
At that time, people believed that Duchamp completely challenged the boundaries of art, and also plagiarized ready-made products: If a ready-made urinal can become a work of art by writing a word, then what can not be a work of art?
At that time, Duchamp argued that it didn’t matter whether a work of art was completely created by the author. The important thing was that the artist chose it and “made people look at it from a new perspective. The original practical meaning has disappeared, so Let the artwork gain a new content”.
As Duchamp said, although the creation process of “Spring” is very simple, even urinals are readily available, but through the artist’s second creation, the focus of “Spring” is no longer the “urinal” itself, but has been given. New life and meaning. This coincides with Virgil’s 3% theory. Virgil also proved in the follow-up design that he is good at integrating innovative elements into the classic design and rejuvenating it.
The obituary said: “After all this, his professional ethics, infinite curiosity and optimism have never been shaken. Virgil is full of dedication to his craft, and at the same time opens the door for others to devote himself to art and The design field has opened up a broader road to equality. He often said, “Everything I do is for my 17-year-old self.” He is convinced that the power of art can inspire young people in the future.”
Another more obvious reason for Virgil’s attention is naturally his identity as a black designer and his long-term commitment to seeking racial equality.
When Off-White was acquired by the LVMH Group this year, he said: “I am honored to be able to use this partnership to deepen my long-term commitment to expand opportunities for diverse individuals and promote in the industries we serve. Greater fairness and inclusiveness.”
Perhaps from the time Virgil Abloh prepared for his first Louis Vuitton menswear show in 2018, he knew that this would be the beginning of a change in the industry and the world’s perception of them.
He said: “We are designers, so we can create a trend, highlight a certain topic-let a lot of people pay attention to something, or let a lot of people pay attention to us. I am not interested in (the latter), I am interested It’s using the platform I’m on to design for a small group of African-American men and show people luxury brand clothing in a poetic way.”
Now Virgil is gone, leaving behind his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Gray Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents and people’s hearts Virgil’s stunning four-seater Louis Vuitton debut.
On June 21, 2018, Paris Fashion Week was crowded with people. It was a bit hot that afternoon, and Virgil designed a rainbow-colored catwalk in the garden of the Palais Royal in Paris that can be seen even on an airplane.
Perhaps seeing the audience sitting full of students he invited, media and fashion industry professionals from all over the world, Virgil also experienced momentary tension and sweaty palms.
There are Virgil’s parents in the background, they wait patiently to prepare to congratulate their son. This is the first time they have witnessed their son’s work in Paris. Both said they were very excited these two days. Virgil mother said that before the show, she reminded her son: Remember to calm down.
Then, models from all continents of the world filed out wearing clothes he designed.
After the catwalk, the Louis Vuitton series engraved with the Virgil mark won a standing applause from the audience, including his former mentor, Kanye.
Virgil appeared along the rainbow T stage with complicated expressions, and walked straight to Grandpa Kan, the two of them hugged each other for a long time and wept.
“There are people in the audience around here who look like me.” He said, “You have never seen this in the fashion industry before. Now that people have changed, so must fashion.”
We know that Virgil Abloh did it.
(Author: Liang Xin Editor: Hong Xiaowen, Lu Taoran, Li Qingyu)