On Sunday 28th November, it was announced that Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White, passed away due to cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He was just 41 and had had a massive impact on the fashion industry during his career, especially upon the black community within fashion.
He dabbled a bit in music, design, architecture, and art, but will be remembered for redefining luxury fashion and his collaborations with IKEA and Nike. He became recognised when he was working as Kanye West’s creative director, and later on, made history as Louis Vuitton’s first African American artistic director.
His influence has not been restricted to within the celebrity world, as he has had a significant impact amongst young black fashion designers and students too. Radio 1 interviewed some of these people that Virgil has had a profound influence on and discussed the legacy he leaves behind.
One of the graduates Radio 1 spoke to was Maxwell, a designer in men’s fashion, who credits Virgil for his lasting impression on the black community. Maxwell told Radio 1, that Virgil gave him, and others, the ability to dream “because black people don’t necessarily see ourselves in the media in good ways”.
This is something that Bianca can relate to as well. She has her own menswear brand called Bianca Saunders, and she feels that having a black person at the top of the fashion industry has been incredibly influential to her. She said that seeing Virgil achieve as much as he has in his career has only inspired her more; “it gave me the idea of where the glass ceiling could actually go”. She told Radio 1 that because of Virgil Abloh, she feels it’s possible for black creatives to have their own brands and embrace the opportunities out there.
Radio 1 also spoke to Kiara, a fashion student, who said that Virgil showed “what black excellence is about” in a traditionally white and middle-class industry. She went on to explain that he made her feel special and he was someone she looked up to, adding “when you realise it’s all through his hard work, creative genius, and taking opportunities” she could do it too.
Many have paid tribute to Virgil Abloh, from celebrities to aspiring fashion designers and students, and he has had a significant impact on many people’s lives and careers, especially within the black communities in fashion. He was loved by everyone, and as stated by Maxwell for Radio 1, “he wasn’t someone that was seen as problematic, just someone who’s genuine”.
Virgil has shifted the world of fashion and his legacy will live on in the impact he has had on others.
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