The Biography of Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh In front of a stage.

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Featured Video : Life Lessons
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The Life Story of Virgil Abloh

When it comes to fashion, Virgil Abloh is a name that comes to the mind of many. Abloh was a man of various talents.

He studied to be an architect, made a career in the fashion industry, entered the music world, and was featured in various art galleries.

Regardless of the type of art involved, this man proved time and time again that he could reach his goals.

Known for his Off-White brand and his work at Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh was a great name in luxury fashion.

While his career was cut short by an untimely passing, he established himself as a figure of influence.

In this article, we will discover what Abloh did to make himself so well-established.

 

“Everything I do references something that influenced me.” ~  Virgil Abloh

 

Early Life and Education

Virgil Abloh was born on the 30th of September 1980 in Rockford (a city just outside of Chicago).

His parents were Ghanaian immigrants who moved to the United States, hoping for a better life.

His mother was a seamstress, and he taught Abloh everything he needed to know about constructing and altering garments.

Abloh graduated from the Boylan Catholic High School in 1998, after which he began attending classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in civil engineering and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 2002.

For his master’s degree, he decided to pursue architecture, joining classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

He then received his Master of Architecture degree in 2006.

“I’m always trying to prove to my 17-year-old self that I can do creative things I thought weren’t possible.” ~  Virgil Abloh

Entry into the Fashion Industry

While Abloh was still attending classes at the IIT, a building on campus was designed by Rem Koolhaas, a famous architect who worked on Prada runway collections. Koolhaas’ building and personality opened Abloh’s mind to fashion.

While studying architecture, Abloh also designed T-shirts on the side and wrote content for “The Brilliance,” a famous fashion blog.

The T-shirts were designed at a print shop in Chicago, where he met the musician Kanye West, who also interned at the Fendi fashion house. The two began a collaborative relationship while placed in Fendi’s office in Rome.

“Fashion and music are two great artistic forms that can be molded by the youth culture – our taste and our passion for evolving things in our limited time on earth allows us to look at things with fresh eyes.” ~  Virgil Abloh

Rise to Prominence

During his time at Fendi, Abloh caught the attention of Michael Burke, the Louis Vuitton CEO. Later in 2009, Abloh collaborated with West’s artistic partner, Don C, to launch the RSVP Gallery retail store in Chicago.

The store became popular for its mixture of fashion pieces, reflecting Abloh’s passion for interior design.

One year later, Kanye West appointed Abloh to be the creative director of Donda, his creative agency.

He would design Kanye’s album covers there, eventually landing him a Grammy. He took on multiple side projects during that time until he decided to found his own fashion house, Off-White.

Abloh described Off-White to be in the gray area between white and black. Hovering quotations became his signature, and he would combine various ideas for luxury, streetwear, music, and art.

He launched his women’s wear collection at the 2014 Paris Fashion Week. At that point, he began receiving a lot of attention.

“The whole point of collaboration is that you give and take from each other, and that’s how you create things that are totally new.” ~  Virgil Abloh

Creative Director of Louis Vuitton Menswear

Abloh already had the attention of Louis Vuitton’s CEO, but his success with Off-White got him even more attention.

In 2019, he was named Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, overseeing the brand’s ready-to-wear line for men.

His first show in this role was at the Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, where he showcased his first collection.

After the show, Abloh’s designs became extremely popular and sought after. Not only would he create fashion pieces for men, but he would also provide for celebrities such as Rihanna and Serena Williams.

The Intersection of Fashion and Art

Abloh was highly interested in fashion, as his career shows us, but he was an artist at his core.

In his youth, aside from his interest in fashion, he was also interested in graffiti art. Most of his work went on his T-shirts, but he also dabbled in other types of art.

Abloh frequently collaborated with Takashi Murakami, being given a part in the latter’s Tokyo art gallery, Kaikai Kiki.

Pieces of the two artists were featured in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, along with Murakami’s shops in Tokyo.

In 2018, the two collaborated for an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, with outposts in Beverly Hills, Paris, and London. He also had his first solo art exhibition in 2019 at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

“There’s no line between a designer and consumer.” ~  Virgil Abloh

Other Projects and Collaborations

Aside from his interest in art and fashion, Abloh also had successful projects in other sectors. In 2019, he collaborated with IKEA to make furniture intended for millennials.

His line included various products, such as chairs, coffee tables, rugs, and cabinets.

Each piece had its style element, such as the “Door Stop Interruption” label on a chair. Thus, the chair had door stops added to the legs to be more elevated.

Abloh also enjoyed being a DJ during his teenage years, a passion that would follow him into adulthood.

He collaborated with various festivals, such as Hi Ibiza and Tomorrowland, where he displayed his DJing skills.

He also partnered with the German producer and DJ Boys Noize in 2018, releasing his first single, “Orvnge.”

Philanthropy and Social Activism

Abloh was not only a man of many talents – he was also a philanthropist. In 2020, he set the grounds for the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern Scholarship Fund.

It was managed by the Fashion Scholarship fund and was intended to help black students obtain college tuition. He would raise about $1 million for these scholarships.

Abloh launched the “I Support Young Black Businesses” fundraising program the same year through his Off-White brand.

He sold numerous T-shirts and hoodies with that message, the profits going to the Chicago CRED.

This was a non-profit aiming to reduce gun violence. He also spent much of his time mentoring and providing resources to young designers with limited means.

Personal Life and Influence

Virgil Abloh married his high school sweetheart, Shannon Sundberg. He rarely spoke about his wife during his interviews, but it was made clear that the two share a strong bond.

After around 10 years of courtship, the couple tied the knot in 2009 at Dour Seasons Chicago, around the same time he decided that he did not want to pursue a career in architecture.

The couple remained married until 2021, when Abloh passed away at 41.

He was battling a rare form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, with which he had been diagnosed two years before.

The couple had two children, Grey and Lowe Abloh.

Legacy and Recognition

Abloh left a great legacy behind him, influencing the world of fashion and other art-related industries.

In 2011, he won his first major award for his work on Kanye and Jay-Z’s album cover, “Watch the Throne.” Abloh was also a finalist for the LVMH award, being the sole American designer to be given a nomination.

Abloh was listed 2018 as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” for his successes.

He received multiple nominations, including “Menswear Designer of the Year” in 2019.

“The whole point of collaboration is that you give and take from each other, and that’s how you create things that are totally new.” ~  Virgil Abloh

Conclusion

Abloh was successful in more than one industry.

He was interested in interior design, but simultaneously, he created beautiful garments for people.

He also encouraged new designers to follow this path, offering them the resources necessary for success.

Key Points

  • Virgil Abloh was a multi-talented individual who excelled in fashion, architecture, music, and art.
  • He gained recognition through his Off-White brand and work at Louis Vuitton, becoming a figure of influence in luxury fashion.
  • Abloh’s early life involved learning about garment construction from his seamstress mother and pursuing civil engineering and architecture degrees.
  • His entry into the fashion industry began with designing T-shirts and writing for a fashion blog, eventually leading to collaborations with Kanye West and the launch of Off-White.
  • Abloh became the creative director of Donda, Kanye West’s creative agency, and later became the artistic director for Louis Vuitton Menswear.
  • He was known for his intersection of fashion and art, collaborating with artists like Takashi Murakami and showcasing his work in galleries.
  • Abloh had successful projects in other sectors, including collaborations with IKEA and his passion for DJing.
  • He was a philanthropist and actively supported young black businesses through fundraising and scholarships.
  • Abloh passed away in 2021 due to cardiac angiosarcoma, leaving a legacy of influence and recognition in the fashion industry.
  • His personal life included his marriage to Shannon Sundberg and their two children.
  • Abloh’s accomplishments earned him various awards and nominations, and he was recognized as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Timeline.Virgil Abloh

1980:

Virgil Abloh was born on September 30th in Rockford, just outside of Chicago.

1998:

Abloh graduated from the Boylan Catholic High School.

2002:

He received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2006:

Abloh completed his Master of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He began designing T-shirts and wrote for “The Brilliance,” a famous fashion blog.

2009:

Virgil Abloh caught the attention of Michael Burke, the CEO of Louis Vuitton while interning at Fendi with Kanye West. He also collaborated with Don C to launch the RSVP Gallery retail store in Chicago. Later in the year, he married his high school sweetheart, Shannon Sundberg.

2010:

Kanye West appointed Abloh as the creative director of his creative agency, Donda.

2011:

Abloh won his first major award for his work on Kanye and Jay-Z’s album cover, “Watch the Throne.”

2014:

He launched his own fashion house, Off-White, and debuted the women’s wear collection at Paris Fashion Week.

2018:

Abloh and Takashi Murakami held an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery.

He also released his first single, “Orvnge,” with German producer and DJ Boys Noize.

He was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

2019:

Abloh was named Louis Vuitton’s artistic director for men’s ready-to-wear line. He showcased his first collection at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.

He also had his first solo art exhibition at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and collaborated with IKEA to create furniture for millennials. He was nominated for “Menswear Designer of the Year.”

2020:

Abloh established the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern Scholarship Fund and launched the “I Support Young Black Businesses” fundraising program through his Off-White brand.

2021:

Abloh passed away at 41 after battling a rare form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He had been diagnosed two years earlier.

Life Lessons

The life story of Virgil Abloh contains several teachable lessons:

  1. Diversification of Talents: Virgil Abloh was not just a fashion designer. He studied to be an architect, entered the music world, and was involved in various art galleries. His diverse skill set helped him to view problems from different perspectives and to be creative in unique ways. This teaches us the importance of exploring and cultivating multiple talents and interests.
  2. Persistence and Perseverance: Abloh’s journey wasn’t a straight path, but he persisted and kept pushing toward his goals. His journey underlines the importance of tenacity and never giving up, regardless of setbacks or obstacles.
  3. Building Connections and Collaboration: The friendships and collaborations Abloh formed, especially with Kanye West and Rem Koolhaas, were instrumental to his success. This underlines the importance of building meaningful relationships, networking, and collaborating with others in your field.
  4. Intersection of Different Fields: Abloh frequently merged art and fashion in his work. His ability to blend different disciplines emphasizes the importance of not limiting oneself to one field and looking for innovative ways to combine different areas of interest.
  5. Giving Back to Society: Abloh was a philanthropist, using his success to create scholarships for Black students and to support young Black businesses. His story illustrates the importance of giving back and helping others.
  6. Influence and Impact: Abloh left a significant legacy in the world of fashion and art, impacting many people. His story reminds us of the importance of striving to make a positive impact in whatever we do.
  7. Privacy and Work-Life Balance: Despite his fame, Abloh managed to keep his personal life, particularly his marriage, private. This shows the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and keeping some aspects of life private despite professional success.
  8. Courage to Change Paths: Abloh studied civil engineering and architecture but eventually moved into the fashion industry. His story highlights the courage to follow your passion, even changing career paths.
  9. Leaving a Legacy: Even though Abloh’s life was cut short, he left a legacy that continues to influence the fashion world. It underlines the importance of leaving a lasting impact through our work.

Facts

  • Virgil Abloh was born in Rockford, near Chicago, on September 30, 1980.
  • His parents were Ghanaian immigrants, and his mother, a seamstress, taught him about garment construction.
  • He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.
  • Abloh received his Master of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2006.
  • While studying at IIT, he was inspired to explore fashion by architect Rem Koolhaas.
  • Abloh designed T-shirts and wrote content for a fashion blog, “The Brilliance,” while studying architecture.
  • He met musician Kanye West at a print shop in Chicago, leading to a collaborative relationship.
  • At Fendi, he caught the attention of Michael Burke, the Louis Vuitton CEO.
  • In 2009, Abloh co-founded the RSVP Gallery retail store in Chicago.
  • Kanye West appointed Abloh as the creative director of Donda, his creative agency.
  • Abloh founded his fashion house, Off-White, which garnered significant attention during the 2014 Paris Fashion Week.
  • In 2019, Abloh was appointed Louis Vuitton’s artistic director for men’s ready-to-wear line.
  • His designs became popular with celebrities, including Rihanna and Serena Williams.
  • Abloh frequently collaborated with artist Takashi Murakami, and his works were featured in multiple exhibitions.
  • In 2019, he collaborated with IKEA on a furniture line aimed at millennials.
  • Abloh pursued DJing and released a single, “Orvnge,” in 2018.
  • He founded the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern Scholarship Fund” and raised about $1 million for scholarships for black students.
  • He also launched the “I Support Young Black Businesses” fundraising program through his Off-White brand.
  • Abloh was married to Shannon Sundberg, with whom he had two children.
  • Abloh died in 2021 from a rare form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma.
  • His significant achievements include winning an award for his work on the album cover “Watch the Throne,” being a finalist for the LVMH award, and being listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2018.

Questions and Answers

The information in this post answers many of the questions about Virgil Abloh.

In addition, this section provides a summary and any further information.

  1. Who was Virgil Abloh?
    • Virgil Abloh was a man of various talents who had a significant influence in the fashion industry, known for his Off-White brand and his work at Louis Vuitton.
  2. What did Virgil Abloh study in school?
    • Virgil Abloh studied civil engineering and architecture. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. He received his Master of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2006.
  3. How did Virgil Abloh get into the fashion industry?
    • Virgil Abloh was inspired by a building on the IIT campus designed by Rem Koolhaas, a famous architect who worked on Prada runway collections. While studying architecture, Abloh designed T-shirts and wrote content for a famous fashion blog. He also met musician Kanye West at a print shop in Chicago, and they began a collaborative relationship while interning at the Fendi fashion house.
  4. What was Virgil Abloh’s significant contribution to the fashion industry?
    • Virgil Abloh founded his own fashion house, Off-White, and later became Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, overseeing the brand’s ready-to-wear line for men.
  5. How did Virgil Abloh combine his interest in fashion and art?
    • Abloh frequently collaborated with artists like Takashi Murakami and showcased his works in various art galleries. He also had his first solo art exhibition in 2019 at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.
  6. Did Virgil Abloh have projects outside of the fashion and art industry?
    • Yes, he collaborated with IKEA in 2019 to create furniture intended for millennials, and he also enjoyed being a DJ, collaborating with festivals, and releasing a single.
  7. Did Virgil Abloh engage in philanthropy or social activism?
    • Abloh set the grounds for the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern Scholarship Fund to help black students obtain college tuition. He also launched the “I Support Young Black Businesses” fundraising program.
  8. What was Virgil Abloh’s personal life like?
    • Virgil Abloh married his high school sweetheart, Shannon Sundberg, in 2009, and they had two children, Grey and Lowe Abloh. He passed away in 2021 from cardiac angiosarcoma.
  9. What legacy did Virgil Abloh leave behind?
    • Virgil Abloh left a significant legacy in the world of fashion and other art-related industries. He won a Grammy for his work on Kanye and Jay-Z’s album cover, was a finalist for the LVMH award, and was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2018.
  10. Why did Virgil Abloh name his brand “Off-White”?
  • Virgil Abloh described Off-White as being in the gray area between white and black, referring to the fashion world’s complex mixture of luxury and streetwear.
  1. What was the cause of Virgil Abloh’s death?
  • Virgil Abloh passed away from cardiac angiosarcoma, a type of cancer, at 41.
  1. How did Abloh’s designs influence the fashion world after his death?
  • After Abloh’s death, resale prices for some of his most iconic collaborations, like the Off-White x Air Jordan Retro High OG “Chicago,” skyrocketed.
  1. What was Virgil Abloh’s net worth at the time of his death?
  • Virgil Abloh had a net worth of $100 million at his death in November 2021.

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