5 Ways Virgil Abloh’s Influence Went Beyond the Sphere of Fashion

The virgil Abloh’s unrelenting creativity is a major contributor to today’s fashion scene. He died of cardiac angiosarcoma., A rare form of cancer that he died of on Nov. 28, at age 41 in Chicago. His work shaped our present, however, there were no doubts about it. As the founder of the cult brand Off-White and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear division, Abloh, a first-generation Ghanaian American, was a trailblazing, outsized figure in the fashion industry—but his influence stretched far beyond the world of clothes.
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Abloh’s creative pursuits spanned mediums and defied easy definition; he began sewing as a young boy with his seamstress mother, foreshadowing his future in fashion; he studied civil engineering and received a master’s degree in architecture; he was a renowned DJ on the international party circuit; he was a creative director and close collaborator of Kanye West, helping to create some of the most iconic imagery in music for the past two decades; he made furniture and held exhibits in major museums.

Abloh, who preferred to see himself as a “maker” as opposed to the simple categorizations of being just a designer or a DJ, was a true (and endearingly unironic) multihyphenate. His inspiration ran the gamut from hip hop to classical art; in Abloh’s world, nothing was exclusive and everything could be connected, whether that was melding the spheres of streetwear and high fashion on the runway or bringing skate culture to a gallery by installing ramps that function as benches. Abloh broke all the rules of artistry and created a path for young artists who don’t want to be restricted by their job titles or class.

“You put me on, you inspired me, you made me realize one title to a name never mattered, you gave us all the confidence to have a passion for many things all at once,” wrote the skater, model, streetwear designer and Gossip Girl Actor Evan Mock performing an Instagram tribute on Sunday to Abloh.

Abloh’s significant influence is as varied as his interests and projects were; below, a look back at his many creative pursuits over the years.

2018 Lollapalooza - Day 1
FilmMagic—2018 Josh Brasted Virgil Abloh performs during Lollapalooza 2018.

His career as a DJ

Abloh’s interest in music was piqued as a teenager, when he began DJ-ing house parties. He co-founded Been Trill in New York City, which was a streetwear and DJ collective that quickly gained a following. He was a well-known DJ who became a prominent figure at Coachella and Tomorrowland festivals. His reputation for previewing songs from Drake and Kanye West made him a popular choice. Abloh began to be more involved with fashion and started creating the music for runway shows. He would often release the tracks to Soundcloud, DJing after each event, and even making the soundtrack himself. Abloh continued to be involved in music after his 2018 appointment as Louis Vuitton CEO. This was despite running Off-White. Orvnge In 2018, Boys Noize was a producer and he had his own residency in Vegas at XS Nightclub.

He is the art director of music.

When Abloh met Kanye West in 2009, at a Fendi internship program they were both attending, it marked the start of a long fruitful collaboration between the two (West named Abloh the creative director of Donda, his creative agency, in 2010) and helped propel Abloh to his role as one of hip hop’s most trusted creative directors. Abloh was responsible for the cover art for West’s albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, as well as the collaborative album from West’s G.O.O.D. Music label Cruel SommerJay Z’s joint album, he and him. Keep an eye on the Throne Abloh was nominated for a Grammy award for his art design. Abloh worked with West as well, and became an industry leader in art direction, creating album art for every artist, from Kid Cudi to 2 Chainz. Abloh also flexed his creative vision with music video direction, going behind the camera for videos like ASAP Rocky’s “Fashion Killa” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Life.”

His furniture design

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Abloh’s passion for design also extended to the home and furniture. Abloh founded Off-White and created Grey Area. This division of Off-White was primarily focused on furniture. He was also a part of a few memorable furniture collaborations such as the Markerad line for Ikea, and Vitra three-piece collection.

His artwork and exhibitions in museums

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“Streetwear in my mind is linked to Duchamp,” Abloh told the New Yorker in 2019, drawing a compelling parallel between the conceptual artist’s philosophy of “readymade” and his own “ready-to-wear” clothing. His designs made clear Abloh’s appreciation for not only art history, but contemporary art. He collaborated with many notable artists during his life, such as Takashi Murakami and Jenny Holzer. In 2019, Abloh had his first solo exhibition, “Figures of Speech,” at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which is now a traveling exhibit; it features selections from his clothing collections, multimedia displays of his fashion shows and displays of his graphic designs.

Noteworthy collaborations and commissions by him

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Abloh, who has a streetwear background brought the energy of an exciting collaboration to luxury and high fashion. With Off-White, Abloh collaborated with dozens of premium brands and companies, including Rimowa, Mercedes Benz, the NBA, Levi’s, Moncler, Jimmy Choo, Kith, Timberland and Byredo. His most notable collaborative relationship, however, may have been with Nike, with which he did multiple collections, one of which netted him the “Shoe of the Year” award at the 2017 Footwear News Achievement Awards. Serena Williams also commissioned him to design competition outfits with Nike. Abloh’s talents were also in high-demand by many of his celebrity friends, who commissioned custom work running the gamut from Hailey Bieber’s Off-White wedding dress and veil that read “Till death do us part” in Abloh’s signature irony quotes to Drake’s personal plane that he had Abloh customize with a ethereal blue sky and cloud pattern. Although Abloh’s body of work was often defined by his ability to capture the zeitgeist, his legacy lies with his relentless curiosity and fearless drive to create.


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