Virgil Abloh, the prolific fashion designer known for styling stars like Kanye West and Kid Cudi, died Sunday after a private battle with cancer. He was 41.
Abloh’s death was announced in a post to his Instagram account, as well as in a tweet by LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, where Abloh had been the men’s artistic director since 2018.
“We are shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and a great wisdom,” LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault said in the tweeted statement.
A post to Abloh’s Instagram account said he had privately been battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer known as cardiac angiosarcoma, which affects the heart.
“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. Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” the statement read.
Abloh’s career made history in the fashion world when he became the first Black artistic director to lead a division of a top French design house, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He also went on to found the streetwear brand Off-White, which is based in Milan. In addition, Abloh had long been the creative director for Kanye West.
Dresses designed by Abloh went viral this year after the singer and rapper Kid Cudi wore them on “Saturday Night Live.” Off-White made the dresses as a tribute to the late singer Kurt Cobain.
“Virgil designed the dress for me. I told him I wanted to show love to Kurt [with] a floral print sundress and this man made a masterpiece. Thank You @virgilabloh ur a f—– genius!! Love you man we did it!!!” Kid Cudi wrote at the time.
The statement on Instagram said Abloh was driven to make 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,” the statement read.
News of Abloh’s death began trending Sunday afternoon on Twitter.
“Virgil Abloh, who changed what was possible in fashion, has died,” the fashion critic Vanessa Friedman tweeted.
Dani Kwateng, the executive editor of Teen Vogue, said the news was “devastating.”
“His contributions to fashion have actually be shapeshifting in so many ways — publicity and privately. Thinking about his loved ones today. May he rest in peace,” Kwateng tweeted.
Some noted the similarities between Abloh’s death and that of Chadwick Boseman, another prolific Black figure, who died last year after his own private battle with cancer.
“Just a year after Chadwick, Virgil Abloh, another influential Black force, has been taken from us due to a private cancer battle. The resiliency these men must have had to deal with such difficult situations in complete silence, working all the way to the very end. Devastating,” wrote Michael Cuby, an editor-at-large for the online magazine “them.”
Abloh is survived by wife, Shannon Abloh; his children, Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh; his sister, Edwina Abloh; and his parents, Nee and Eunice Abloh.