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‘A creator for the history books’: Fashion industry pays tribute to Virgil Abloh

‘A creator for the history books’: Fashion industry pays tribute to Virgil Abloh
The designer was diagnosed with cancer in 2019

Tributes from the fashion industry have poured in after the family of Off-White founder, Virgil Abloh, announced his passing on Sunday 28 November.

The designer had been privately battling a rare, aggressive form of cancer for more than two years.

“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,” the statement said.

Abloh got his start in fashion in 2002 after Kanye West hired him as his creative director, before going on to intern at Fendi in 2009.

In the 12 years that followed, he pursued countless projects and worked with numerous high-profile figures.

After collaborating with both IKEA and Nike, and designing album covers for Jay-Z and Kanye West, he made history as one of the few black designers to lead a French fashion house when he was named artistic director at Louis Vuitton in 2018.

“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” his family said.

“Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design.

“He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”

Here are some of the tributes paid to the designer.

Bernard Arnault

In a tribute posted to Instagram, Arnault described Abloh as “a visionary” and “a man with a beautiful soul and great 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.”

Gigi Hadid

Gigi Hadid, a friend of Abloh’s who has modelled for Off-White, described the designer as “one of one”.

“His kindness and energetic generosity left a lasting impression on every life he touched— he made everyone feel seen and special,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

The model shared several photographs of the pair together, and one of the designer after a Louis Vuitton show at Paris Fashion Week, 2019.

“He will be deeply missed, cherished, and celebrated by me and all the people and industries that have been lucky enough to work around and know the true supernova behind this man,” she said.

“I picture him now like our Mickey Mouse .. forever with us, forever adored, forever magical, forever guiding us with that special Virgil FUN; I’m sure that’s how he wanted to be remembered, but still it will never be the same without him in the room.”

Bella Hadid

Bella Hadid, sister of Gigi and fellow model, was also often spotted wearing Abloh’s designs.

In a tribute, she said the designer was “the most beautiful warrior soul”.

Sharing a reel of photographs with the designer, including a Facetime screenshot and one of the pair hugging, Hadid said Abloh was “an ethereal light” who will be “missed and cherished”.

“He made every person he came across feel special in whatever way he possibly could. Even when the world felt sad, he brought laughter and colour and beauty,” she wrote.

“The way he made a positive impact on anything he touched, and always pushed for his culture/the world is the reason why he was an angel on earth and one to so many. The most beautiful warrior soul.

“You always inspired to keep pushing, work hard and be kind. No matter what,” she added.

Kendall Jenner

In a tribute posted to her Instagram on Sunday, Kendall Jenner said those who knew Abloh “were one of the lucky ones”.

“He was the kindest, most positive, humble, joyful, and full of light person I have ever known,” she said.

“He had the most wonderful way of making you feel so special. His genuine smile would warm your heart. To battle his illness privately perfectly explains the type of man he was, he never wanted anyone to worry about him.”

She also shared a picture of herself with Abloh at the 2018 Met Gala, which she attended wearing a custom Off-White jumpsuit.

“V taught me and all of us a very important lesson, although he knew he had only so long, he was bright, he was kind and he was full of love,” she said.

“We all need a little bit of Virgil in us. He leaves us with his influence, to create and change the world.”

Kaia Gerber

Cindy Crawford’s daughter and model, Kaia Gerber, also paid tribute to Abloh on Instagram.

“In a world where smiles are too rare, and kindness is even rarer, there was you,” she wrote, alongside two black-and-white photographs of the pair.

“With your laughter and your light and your positivity. I would look to you when it felt like everything was spinning and somehow you always made it go quiet,” she said.

“You saw people, and through your art you gave them the courage to be themselves. Thank you for everything you taught me. Taught us. You changed the world.”

Edward Enninful

The editor-in-chief of British Vogue said Abloh “always worked for a greater cause” and changed the fashion industry.

“Virgil believed that anything was possible for humankind, if only we could tear ourselves away from unconscious biases and norms and reassume the imagination we had as children,” he wrote under a picture of the designer.

“His achievements won’t just live on. They will continue to evolve, because we are only seeing the beginning of his impact on the creative industries and surrounding world.”

Victoria Beckham

The fashion designer shared a photograph of Abloh, writing that she will “miss him very much”.

“A true inspiration in so many ways. Rest in peace @virgilabloh. Sending love and light to your beautiful family,” she said.

Cara Delevingne

Alongside a picture of the pair hugging, the model said Abloh will “never be forgotten” and “will continue to inspire so many every day”.

“This man has done so much for so many people. He lived his life for creation and for others in so many ways. I only hope that with his decision to face this battle in private, that he felt and was surrounded by all the love that the world and the people close to him,” she said.

Donatella Versace

The Italian fashion designer shared a photograph of herself with Abloh and model Naomi Campbell, writing that “the world has lost a fashion superstar”.

“An innovator. A creator for the history books. I am thinking of all your loved ones on this tragic day,” she said.

Kim Jones

Dior’s artistic director described Abloh as “one of the kindest people you could meet”.

“Many great times spent traveling the world and hanging out in hotel rooms, working in the floor and going through Japanese magazines and laughing and talking about ideas… my thoughts to Shannon and the children and the rest of his family,” he said in a post to Instagram.

Marc Jacobs

“Rest In Peace and in Power dear Virgil. My heartfelt condolences to your loved ones- your family, your friends, and your coworkers,” Jacobs wrote on Instagram.

“Gone way too soon. Thank you for all you have given us.”

Stella McCartney

The British designer said Abloh was a “a star with grace and beauty”.

“His wife and babies, he worshipped you, his family at work and all that knew and loved him,” she said.

“My time knowing you was brief, but you hit me hard with a bolt of deeply inspired impact, true talent and a desire to bring a better meaning to the world of fashion and design.”

Hailey Bieber

The model, who wore a custom Off-White wedding dress to marry Justin Bieber in 2019, said Abloh “completely changed” her view of street style and fashion.

“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,” she said.

“He was someone who always brought life, charisma, love and fun to any situation, and every room he walked into. A once in a generation creative mind that is so rare and I’ll never forget his impact.”

Eva Chen

Eva Chen, head of fashion at Instagram, said she will remember Abloh as “kind”, “generous” and “funny”.

Alongside a reel of photographs and videos of the pair, she revealed they first met after Vogue’s Anna Wintour, seated them next to each other.

“We talked about our kids, opening doors for others, matcha tea, everything,” Chen wrote.

“He once ‘accidentally’ posted a picture of me in my PJs and crazy hair (testing out an Instagram filter we were making together) and I reminded him of that for years and we always laughed about it.”

“I’ll always remember him as, yes, a visionary but also kind, generous, and funny. He always wanted to help kids realise their dreams.”

Laura Brown

The editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine said Abloh was “the most open and enthusiastic person”.

“All he wanted to do is create, and how he did. When I started at InStyle magazine, he made a t-shirt for my first cover, that said IN on the front and STYLE on the back,” she said.

“It was unbelievably generous and supportive, and it’s this spirit Virgil continued with throughout his blazing career. May he leave behind him lessons in kindness and relentless inspiration that we can only learn from.”