It was with immense sadness that we received the news of designer Virgil Abloh’s passing. An inspiration to our entire WM Events team, his influence and legacy reaches well beyond our small slice of the industry. Abloh affected multiple generations on multiple continents. He broke so many barriers that they simply ceased to exist around him. 

For these reasons and so many more, we are taking a few minutes to consider the man who has become a legend, and a bright star that was extinguished too soon. 

WM Events Abloh Homage WM Events Abloh Homage WM Events Abloh Homage

A Genius is Born

Born in Rockford, Illinois, to Ghanaian parents, Abloh attended a Catholic high school then studied civil engineering at University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Illinois Institute of Technology, he earned a Master of Architecture, and it was there that his deep interest in fashion began, thanks to a Rem Koolhaas building that was being completed on campus. Koolhaas was known for working with Prada and demonstrating an appreciation for the intersections of fashion and architecture. It is also worth noting that Abloh’s mother was a seamstress. 

During his time at ITT, Abloh’s affinity led him to design T-shirts and write for a fashion and design blog. In his career, Abloh would continue to refuse to be boxed into a medium or even a style. 

“I don’t believe in disciplines,” he later told Dezeen. “We can use our architecture brain and do many things, not just what we’re supposed to do.” 

Taking It to the Streets

Out of school, Abloh and his friend Kanye West worked as interns at Fendi in Rome. That was 2009 (yes, after West had already achieved fame and notoriety!), and the same year, they and other friends were famously photographed at Paris Fashion Week by Tommy Ton. 

After that, Abloh quickly grew into the Renaissance Man he would become. He served as creative director for West’s creative agency, art directed an album for Jay-Z, and launched Pyrex Vision, adapting Ralph Lauren flannel shirts and selling them for $550. 

By 2013, he had founded Off-White, a brand combining ideas from streetwear, luxury, art, music and travel, according to Vogue. He added womenswear the following year and hosted shows at Paris Fashion Week. 

By then, he had married his childhood sweetheart, Shannon, and during the next few years, Off-White continued to gain attention. Abloh opened a concept store in Tokyo and expand into furniture with the Grey Area collection. He collaborated with the likes of Nike, Jimmy Choo and Warby Parker. 

Breaking Through the Fabric Ceiling

In 2018, LVMH came calling. Three years earlier, Off-White had been named a finalist for the LVMH Prize, but Abloh achieved a greater honor when he was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections — the first Black man to hold the title. 


Having made his mark in nearly every artistic discipline possible, Abloh’s next foray landed him in museums across the country. The exhibition “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” explored the “products, partnerships, and creative processes of the artist, architect, and designer.” The show opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago for three months in 2019 then traveled to Atlanta’s High Museum for a 2019-2020 run.

According to Culture Type, plans for the exhibition were underway when Off-White was in its infancy, there had not yet been a deal with IKEA (oops – we forgot to mention the IKEA collection< /span>) and Abloh had yet to be hired by Louis Vuitton. Touted as a mid-career retrospective, it offered a glimpse of the cultural products Abloh had been responsible for, while asking questions about what they might mean.  

The Curtain

Even as Abloh’s museum exhibition was attracting multi-generational audiences, he was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. According to his Instagram account, he “chose to endure his battle privately” and underwent “numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.” Indeed, he must have been already in the throes of it when he visited the High for this conversation. 

On Nov. 28, 2021, the “fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend,” as well as designer, artist, visionary, genius, and inspiration, passed on. His ability to question what we value, break down barriers, and surprise and delight us will be remembered and appreciated always. 

WM Events Abloh Homage

Just days after Abloh’s death, the Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2022 collection show took place as planned as per the designer’s wishes. The presentation, outdoors at the Miami Marine Stadium, began with a short video of a boy riding a bike through Miami then happening upon a red hot-air balloon and jumping in to take flight. A balloon then floated above the audience throughout the show, which culminated in a night-sky light display of the words “Virgil was here.” 

He certainly was.    

“There’s no limit. Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.” – Virgil Abloh



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