By Sara Diaz
Many of you know the feeling of walking into a classroom and looking around only to realize that you are the only person that looks like you. You digest the fact that you are the only person of color in a room filled with “highly-educated” people, and you probably cringe at the fact that the people around you are making commentary about issues that are sensitive to you.
Virgil Abloh stepped into a world that didn’t have many people who looked like him. He embodied Black radiance, Black excellence, Black creativity, and Black power. He challenged the fashion industry by blurring the lines between streetwear and high fashion. He reinvented and reinvigorated our culture in every aspect. He was a true visionary that transcended multiple realms of the creative spirit, from fashion to music to art.
Virgil founded Off-White in 2013, a brand that almost immediately sparked the world of fashion and was the name on everyone’s lips. With this brand, Virgil sought to reimagine what we have become accustomed to. He most notably used quotation marks and diagonal lines in many of his graphic designs, which could be attributed to his “3% approach.” This meant that if you changed a design by only 3%, then you have created something new. It was a controversial take, but nonetheless, it catapulted Abloh into stardom. If his job was simply to get people to think more deeply about what fashion presents on the surface, he did it. One of his most notable pieces was in the “Nike 10s” collection, which featured many of the Off-White trademark designs.
He famously worked alongside Kanye West for many years and became the creative director of DONDA in 2010. He gave us some of the most iconic moments in music: designing the album cover for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, directing the Yeezus tour, directing A$AP Rocky’s “Fashion Killa” music video, DJ’ing at Camp Flog Gnaw and Coachella, and more.
Creativity ran through his veins. His powerful work across genres led him to become the first Black creative director at Louis Vuitton in 2018 where he merged streetwear and haute couture, high fashion that is made by hand. His use of bright colors and distinctive designs challenged conventionality. He shifted the paradigm by breathing life into streetwear, moving it away from its negative perception of “cheapness” and “ghetto” and putting it on the highest pedestal of fashion, amplifying and rejoicing in its roots in Black culture. He was incredibly versatile with his art, whether it may be his designing of furniture, stage outfits for household names like Lady Gaga and Kanye West, wedding dresses, architecture-inspired designs, athleisure for Serena Williams’ NikeCourt US open collection, shoewear, etc.
Virgil Abloh was a bright and shining light for people of color. He held the door open for Black creatives, especially through his art studio, Alaska Alaska, where he mentored young Black designers. He also established the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which sought to encourage Black students in fashion. He had strong hope for the younger generation and is famously quoted, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself.”
After a silent battle with cancer, Virgil Abloh passed away on November 28th, 2021. His death sent shock waves across multiple creative industries. His legacy still lives on. Abloh planted multiple seeds that we as creative people will continue to grow. He gave us the ability to dream of seeing ourselves in the highest positions in industries that lack people like us. He gave us the hope that we could achieve what he could and more. He continues to inspire us, and we will keep running until we continue to shatter the glass ceiling.
Virgil Abloh, May you Rest In Power.