The fashion world lost a tremendous legend on Sunday. Social media was rocked by the death of Virgil Abloh’s unexpected passing on Nov. 28.
According to an announcement posted on his social media account, the Off-White founder died following a private years-long battle with cancer.
“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma,” the statement read. “He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.”
In addition to founding the luxury Italian brand that sought to combine the world of high fashion with streetwear, the 41-year-old designer was also the Men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton. In 2018, Abloh became the first Black person to work at the top of the French heritage house.
“We are all shocked after this terrible news,” said Chief Executive Officer of LVMH Bernard Arnault in a statement. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and feat wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother, or their friend.”
During his time with Louis Vuitton, Abloh took risks toying with whimsical creations and weaving in elements of his rich Ghanian background into off-runway couture. Back in January, he released his 6th collection with the fashion giant called “Ebonics.”
“When I grew up, my father wore Kente cloth, with nothing beneath it, to family weddings, funerals, graduations,” the Chicago native said in a statement about the collection, according to Vogue. “When he went to an American wedding, he wore a suit. I merged those two together, celebrating my Ghanaian culture. Add LV patterns to the cloth, drape it, then pair and compare it again with tartan checks, and the result is indeed something new,” he continued. “The diagonal green-on-white print on a leather motocross suit. A memory of the wax print fabric my mom had around the house when I was growing up,” he chuckled. “She was the one who taught me to sew, and she had learned it with a tailor in Ghana.”
From partnering with Nike on Louis Vuitton’s Air Force 1 sneaker to creating the Louis Vuitton airplane bag, Virgil Abloh opened up the doors for so many young Black designers, and there are many fashion giants, both established and emerging, that continue to innovate and shake up the industry for future generations.
Let’s look at a few African American fashion brands that are disrupting the industry with fearlessness and fervor.
Telfar Clemens launched his gender-fluid fashionwear line in 2005, and it’s been a hit ever since. While the all-inclusive fashion house features several different designs from hats and belts to jewelry, fans of Clemens have raved over his Telfar bags in recent years. The Queens, New York native won the CFDA Fashion award for American Accessories Designer of the Year in 2020 and 2021.
Kerby Jean-Raymond is the mastermind behind Pyer Moss, a high fashion brand that brings surrealism to the runway with its bold and outspoken designs. Jean-Raymond has created pieces that have shed light on many social issues, including police brutality and mental illness.
The stylist and fashion architect played a vital role in shaping key trends during Bad Boy’s golden era. Known as a pioneer in the fashion industry, she has styled many hip-hop and R&B artists since the 1990s, most notably Lil’ Kim and Mary J. Blige.
A number of big-named celebs have appeared in Smith’s lavish runway couture, including Halle Bailey and City Girls star JT. Smith has been showered with praise for his stunning red carpet designs.
Boasting bold colors and feminine designs, Cushnie is the creation of Parsons graduate Carly Cushnie. The buzzing designer recently partnered with renowned doll brand American Girl to reimagine clothes for the storied doll company’s diverse line of characters.