Today, Louis Vuitton presented its Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Collection as part of Paris Fashion Week. It was Virgil Abloh’s last collection ever for the luxury brand, and his unique artistic touch was palpably felt all throughout the show. Similar to previous Louis Vuitton debuts, the new collection live-stream presented as an artistic performance. It featured choreography, a diverse selection of models, and, of course, Abloh’s cutting-edge designs.
Virgil Abloh was one of the art world’s most disruptive and innovative voices. On November 28th 2021, Abloh passed away at the age of 41 after having battled cancer for over two years. The news came as a shock for industry professionals and fans alike, as he chose to keep his diagnosis private.
Abloh was best known for being Louis Vuitton Men’s Artistic Director and the CEO of the streetwear label Off-White—but his talent extended way beyond the world of fashion. Abloh was also an architect, engineer, DJ, and musician. Born outside of Chicago in Rockford, Illinois, he drew inspiration as much from classical art as youth culture. He also used that experience as a multi-disciplinary artist to advocate for change in all fields. “Opening new doors for the Black community has always been and always will be the focus of my career,” he wrote. In fact, he made advocating for inclusivity and philanthropy his life’s work.
“Systemic change starts at the grassroots level, from the collective efforts of people taking action and lifting up their own communities. I’m committed to helping ensure that this social revolution is not just a moment but a movement—and I am holding myself to task,” explained Virgil Abloh in a statement. And, he lived up to that standard. In February 2021, he created an advocacy report in which he chronicled his progress “in uplifting Black voices and showcasing Black talent and achievement.”
Below, we pay homage to Virgil Abloh’s legacy and his efforts in advocating for inclusivity in fashion and beyond.
He Put the Spotlight on Black talent and Black culture at Louis Vuitton
In March 2018, Virgil Abloh succeeded Kim Jones as Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Artistic Director. He was the first African American person to head the menswear department in the brand's over 150-year history. Not only was he the first, but he was also one of the rare designers of color to head a luxury brand. In 2020, Abloh created the LVMH Black Database, a database of Black talent that LVMH can work with. He also launched the LVMH diversity panel, where he advocated for increased representation across the company.
Abloh used his role at Louis Vuitton menswear to create collections that highlighted Black culture and social justice. In 2019, he debuted a collection inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Each piece celebrated MLK’s legacy and timeless call for freedom.
He also decided to highlight Black culture and challenge the luxury fashion status quo through the Louis Vuitton menswear fashion show in Shanghai. The show, which paid tribute to the colors of the Ghanaian flag, was created in collaboration with primarily Black creators. He later announced that Louis Vuitton would be donating funds to Black businesses affected by the pandemic.
He Brought Streetwear to the World of High Fashion With Off-White
Alongside his friend and frequent collaborator Kanye West, Virgil Abloh contributed to making streetwear cool again. He also used that success with his Off-White label to help communities in need and advocate for change. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abloh created the Off-White Masks Project, for which he designed face masks and distributed them to the Black community in Milan, Italy.
He also created the Black Skate Program in collaboration with Nike to elevate Black talent in the skateboarding community. This initiative was made with the aim of showcasing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color role models. It’s also what led him to invite the Melting Passes, the refugee soccer team, to their first fashion show.
Abloh also wanted to create more opportunities for minorities at top management levels. It’s what drove him to create Off-White’s Protégé Studio “Blackboard”, in collaboration with Nike, as well as an internship program in Milan for young Black people who want to build a career in fashion.
He Raised Funds for Important Causes
Virgil Abloh didn’t just focus on bringing change to the art world. Over the years, he launched multiple initiatives to support healthcare. In 2017, he created a capsule collection for which all funds were donated to Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles. He created similar capsules to support the American Red Cross and the British Lung Foundation. In 2018, he collaborated with Equinox to raise funds for Cycle for Survival, a movement to beat rare cancer.
He Supported the Next Generation of Black Fashion Industry Leaders
In 2020, Virgil Abloh made headlines for raising $1 million to fund his “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, in partnership with the Fashion Scholarship Fund. “In addition to my own donation, I raised funds from some of my corporate partners Evian, Farfetch, Louis Vuitton, and New Guards Group—over $1 million to date, with more to come as the Fund continues to work for long-term change,” he wrote.
Scholarship recipients receive $5,000 scholarships, paid summer internships at various fashion companies, mentorship from fashion industry leaders, and access to FSF career programming and professional development resources. The “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund was created with the mission of fostering inclusion in the fashion industry by creating opportunities for Black students. Information about the scholarship and how to apply can be found here.
He Was a Multi-Disciplinary Artist
Virgil Abloh was an accomplished DJ and musician. He performed at both mainstream festivals like Coachella and underground clubs such as Fabric, the London techno clubbing institution. In 2020, he wrote a spoken word poem to commemorate the life of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man who was killed while jogging. The song “SHOES” was written in collaboration with Grammy award winner Lupe Fiasco. The aim of this track was to pay tribute to Ahmaud Arbery and “the Black people murdered for living their lives.”
He Led by Example
Virgil Abloh wanted his hard work and compassion to inspire others, “so that the younger generation can see people that look like them in places of power.” He wrote: “Just as I have been inspired to do and be better by the exceptional Black leaders that came before me, I take seriously the importance of being a role model for the next generation of Black youth. With the platforms I have been granted, I remain committed to leading by example, weathering the myriad challenges of being Black in America with optimism, compassion, and focus. A voter registration initiative and the construction of a skatepark in Ghana are just two of several avenues through which I’ve worked to inspire Black youth to believe in themselves and their future.”
“In this moment of reckoning, there is so much more to be done,” he added in 2021.