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Disappearance of Virgil Abloh, committed designer

Louis Vuitton announced this Sunday the disappearance of Virgil Abloh, artistic director since 2018, swept away by cancer at the age of 41. This great designer was shaking up the codes of luxury, which he wanted to be more inclusive, committed to the affirmation of African-American cultures and diversity. In a fusion of styles, he multiplied the proposals between fashion, contemporary art and design.

With his dazzling trajectory, Virgil Abloh will mark his era and above all will inspire more than one. At 22, this Illinois native entered the fashion world by becoming rapper Kanye West’s stylist. A few years later, he joined the Italian luxury brand Fendi, and indirectly set foot in the LVMH group. In 2013, he founded Off-White, his first clothing brand. His creative signature? Bring the energy of the street, import high-end streetwear , relying on strong graphics. The stylist will win various popular prizes in the fashion world, and above all seduce the house of Louis Vuitton, which appointed him artistic director in 2018. The objective is clear: to seduce the millennials, to respond to young people who demand guarantees of inclusion. For the press, he will very quickly take on the nickname of “the emperor of cool”.

A multidisciplinary designer

Originally trained in architecture and civil engineering, the creator likes multidisciplinarity: In 2019 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago devoted a retrospective to him called “Figures of Speech “: we find in particular pieces from his first solo exhibition “Pay per View” , with in particular his diversions of billboards from large groups. From Chicago to London or Tokyo, his works largely inspired by the counter-culture are exhibited around the world. And more recently in Paris: in 2020 the Kreo gallery presented “Efflorescence”, among his latest series: a clever work of material, concrete, tagged and graffiti, and an openwork mirror in streetwear.

''EFFLORESCENCE'', Virgil Abloh, Galerie kreo
© Morgane Le Gall Courtesy

Music, styling, contemporary art… the artist adds also the string of design to its bow. And in a very panoramic vision. If he collaborated with Nike, we spot his collaborations capsules with IKEA, in the strategy of the Swedish brand to seek “signatures” for its collections while keeping “tight prices”: the Markerad collection, designed for small spaces, will leave in record time. Baccarat, Levi’s, Vitra… the collaborations are very diverse: he will also be an adviser to the Evian brand. Braun will also call on him to celebrate its 100th anniversary: 60 years after the creation of the Wandanlage in 1961 by Dieter Rams, he seizes, in his own way, the emblematic hi-fi system displayed on a wall, one of the great products of design, according to the artist. In a chrome finish, the sound device evolves towards Functional Art. “ Ordinary objects can have an artistic quality if you really look at them. »

Braun, details, Wandanlage, design Virgil Abloh.
Braun, Wandanlage, designed by Virgil Abloh.
Braun, details, Wandanlage, design Virgil Abloh.

If it has been controversial – sometimes even being accused of plagiarism -,it will have been above all inspiring, with an invigorating reading of the contemporary era, causing conflicting energies to collide, carrying urban cultures to the highest spheres.

Nathalie Degardin