For many in the fashion world, Virgil Abhol, 41, was a maverick, a fashion underdog who became famous for his headlining catwalks. Nicknamed the âKarl Lagerfeld for Millennials,â he rose from relative obscurity to the height of his art. He hung out with the coolest kids, hung out with his best friend Kanye West, ‘smashed’ fashion weeks, disrupted the industry and founded one of the world’s hottest streetwear brands, Off-White – a brand which has become as famous for its hoodies and t-shirts as its huge social media success. In 2018, he became the first African-American artistic director of French men’s fashion Louis Vuitton.
News of the shock of the 41-year-old’s death from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, hit the fashion world last night. “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh,” said his wife of 12 years, Shannon Abloh, in a statement posted on the creator’s Instagram page. âHe has chosen to endure his battle in private since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing many difficult treatments. He is also survived by his children Lowe Abloh and Gray Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.
As the news spread around the world tributes came from afar, with prominent friends including Pharrell Williams, Victoria Beckham and Kanye paying their respects. But if her fashion career was filled with stars, her family life was quite the opposite. Born in Rockport near Chicago, Abloh was the son of Ghanaian immigrant parents. Her father worked in a painting company and her mother, Eunice, as a seamstress. She taught Abloh to use a sewing machine, and at a young age he started designing t-shirts.
He met his childhood sweetheart Shannon (nÃ©e Sundberg) while they were both still in school. The couple later moved to Wisconsin where Shannon studied management and marketing at Edgewood College and Abhol began a civil engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before studying for a master’s degree in architecture at the ‘Illinois Institute of Technology.
Virgil rarely spoke of his wife in interviews, but there was never any doubt how strong their bond was. According to reports, after a 10-year courtship, Abloh decided to ask the question but realized he would have to get creative to take her by surprise. He asked her if she could drive with him to the airport for a work trip as she normally did and as they swapped the driver’s seats he caught her completely off guard and got down on his knees. . âI was completely surprised – I couldn’t believe it! Shannon said at the time.
The couple married in 2009 at the Chicago Four Seasons, the same year Abloh decided architecture wasn’t for him after all and found an internship job with fashion label Fendi. It was a big family wedding, Abloh would have left most of the arrangements to the bride, while playing a “supporting role”. The bride wore ivory-colored Amsales and purple-blue shoes, the groom wore a tuxedo and white tie, and the couple sat at different guest tables for each course to make sure they were chatting with all of their people. family and friends. During the ceremony, the couple read each other special emotional promises. âThe funny thing is that we wrote them separately – and we didn’t share them with each other – but they were very similar! Shannon told the bridal magazine Inside Weddings at the time.
Recalling her husband’s wedding speech, she said, âHis words were so heartfelt and heartfelt. He made everyone laugh, cry and smileâ¦ this is the moment I was dying to see on our wedding video. Virgil humbly added that one of the best parts of marriage was the people who helped make it happen: âThe stress and tension never got past their high spirits. More than anything, this is what created the most special night of our life, and we are so grateful. “
Throughout Virgil’s meteoric rise, Shannon, 41, has remained largely out of the spotlight. She was however a strong supporter of her husband’s career, attending shows and red carpet events, later with their two young children, son Gray and daughter Lowe. As her career followed a different, more conventional path – she first worked as a media planner for Yahoo, then later as a program manager for Monster – she continued to be a front row fixture at all of her shows. .
The family was based primarily in Chicago, with Abloh commuting, racking up formidable airline miles. If integrating family life into Vuitton’s men’s fashion direction was a balancing act, he never showed it. His private life was basically a closed book. âI don’t want to be a celebrity designer,â he once said. “I want to keep my personal life out of this.” He was famous for his formidable work ethic – it is said that he never sat in place, refused to have a desk, and did all of his work on the go by iPhone. But despite this, his lifestyle at millions of miles an hour seemed to be taking its toll. Under the orders of a doctor, the creator announced in 2019 that he was taking three months of leave and public appearances. âI’m changing gears,â he said at the time.
Shannon’s post on her husband’s Instagram page describes him as a “fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother and friend.”
The unwavering loyal support of his wife and family has undoubtedly been the key to his success. âThrough it all, his work ethic, endless curiosity and optimism have never wavered,â said the tribute. âVirgil was motivated by his dedication to his craft and his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He would often say, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself”, deeply believing in the power of art to inspire future generations.