Virgil Abloh: A Tribute, History of Off-White & His Work Within Fashion

The fashion world has lost one of its most influential designers Virgil Abloh and we are truly mourning. As said by The New York Times, Abloh referred to himself as a “maker” not a designer. The chairman of LVMH, Bernard Arnault remembers him as “a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom.” Read along to learn more about his life, where he grew up, his family, his touch on the fashion industry, and how he got to where he was. As we scroll through tributes and photos of celebrities honoring Abloh, you can tell how they all recall him being extremely kind and sweet, how he illuminated the world, left a lasting impression on anyone he touched and let everyone feel seen.

Virgil was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and since then has endured treatment while continuing to put his all into his work, spending time with his family, and providing for his supporters. Abloh peaceful passed away on November 28th, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. He will now Rest In Peace but will never be forgotten as his words, work, and family will live on. Sending our deepest condolences, love, and light to all those mourning this immense loss within the world of fashion.

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Who was Virgil Abloh?

Photo from @gigihadid on Instagram

Virgil Abloh was born on September 30th, 1980 in Rockford, Illinois. His parents were both immigrants from Ghana, West Africa. He was not only a designer, but a trained architect and began his start within fashion after landing an internship at Fendi in 2009 with Kanye West. They created a bond that would last years while West started a music career and Abloh founded his fashion brand Off-White.

He graduated in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and had an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Abloh continued his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology and then received his Master’s degree in architecture. Kanye also made a creative agency in 2010 called Donda in which he named Abloh the creative director. He even designed the artwork for Kanye and Jay-Z’s album Watch The Throne. Abloh also began designing clothes in 2006 while he was studying at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Virgil Abloh also married his childhood sweetheart in 2009 after dating for 10 years. Shannon Abloh was an American program manager at Monster. Shannon was getting dropped off at the airport by Virgil before a work trip and as she was getting out of the car and went to the driver’s seat, Abloh was down on one knee ready to propose.

Abloh was promoted last July in 2020 within LVMH to now being able to work with 75 brands “becoming the most powerful Black executive in the most powerful luxury group in the world” as written by Vanessa Friedman.

Photos via @gigihadid and @kendalljenner

When Was Off-White Founded?

When Virgil Abloh first launched his company, it actually was not called Off-White as we know it today. It was called “PYREX VISION” but then he eventually rebranded it in 2013. Off-White is said to be described as “defining the grey area between black and white as the color off-white” which is what he has in his Instagram bio for the official Instagram account.

In 2012, Pyrex Vision first launched in New York and the original garments that were first produced were $40 Ralph Lauren flannel shirts. Abloh screen printed “Pyrex” not onto them then adding “23” as an honor to Michael Jordan. They were then resold for approximately $550 each shirt. In 2013 when Abloh rebranded Pyrex to Off-White, it was just a menswear label but then in 2014 he launched a womenswear line.

Off-White went on to be shown within Paris Fashion Week in 2014 and was then sold in retail stores within Hong Kong, Milan, United Kingdom, and more. A year later in 2015, Off-White was named as a finalist for the LVMH Prize.

Virgil Abloh was known to bring some of the best collaborations to the fashion industry and these had everyone talking. Whether you were into fashion or not, it was impossible to not know some of his most popular and talked about partnerships. He not only did collaborations between Off-White and companies like Levi’s, KITH, Jimmy Choo, and more, but also with himself including Mercedes Benz, NBA, and Kanye West. We’ve listed some below:

  • Virgil Abloh x Mercedes Benz
  • Off-White x Moncler
  • Off-White x Jimmy Choo
  • Off-White x KITH
  • Off-White x Takashi Murakami
  • Off-White x Champion
  • Off-White x Levi’s
  • Off-White x Timberland
  • Off-White x Converse Chuck Taylor ’70s
  • VLONE x OFF-WHITE Sweatsuit Collection
  • Virgil Abloh x Nike Air Force 1 (Sample)
  • Virgil Abloh x Evian
  • Vans x OFF-WHITE “BLANK CANVAS” Sneaker
  • Fragment Design x OFF-WHITE “FLUO” Collection
  • Off-White x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Chicago’
  • Off White x Ikea
  • Off-White x Rimowa
  • Virgil Abloh x Moët & Chandon
  • Virgil Abloh x NBA
  • Off-White x Nike Mercurial Vapor 360
  • Off-White x Nike
  • Off-White x Heron Preston
  • Virgil Abloh x Jay-Z x Kanye West

Fashion Shows, Collections & Ready-to-Wear

Photo via

Abloh released dozens of collections including 35+ and was always in Fashion Weeks around the world. You can view some of his collections right here on Vogue including his most recent Fall and Spring 2021 RTW. Although he did start his brand a little later than most designers, he got his foot into the industry at a great time where he was able to collaborate and meet with Kanye West and then even work with incredible brands such as Nike, IKEA, and more. Abloh befriended many celebrities including the Kardashians, Hadid’s and more. What can be noticed about much of Ablohs’ work is that he did experiment a lot within his work. Some pieces were very minimal, some had a lot of logo, others were very colorful and you can notice right away who the designer was. One thing that Abloh was not afraid to do was be different and shed something new within fashion.

Photos via Vogue, Robb Report & @bellahadid

His Impact & Legacy

You truly can’t define street style without thinking about Off-White and the impact it had on people of all ages. Abloh will forever be known as an influential designer within the world of fashion and he can serve as an inspiration for all of those who love clothing, accessories, and expressing themselves any way they can. Though Abloh did have a rather unconventional route as what he studied in college was a little far from what he ended up doing with his career, he was iconic and known for the quotation marks with a lot of his work. Ikea’s product and design leader says, “For him it was important that design made a difference in young people’s lives. He shared our view that design should be accessible to the many, regardless of income or social status.”

A lot of those who worked closely with Virgil can also say how involved in any project he was and that he was extremely creative, always working hard, and he really changed the world of street style / wear and fashion. Abloh will continued to be honored. His hometown of Rockford, Illinois will be giving him his own day and Mayor McNamara of his hometown also addressed the death of Virgil in a tweet. Virgil was also honored at the Fashion Awards in London on Monday. Tommy Hilfiger commented on this that Abloh not only was an inspiration to the public, but to designers as well and that he will be tremendously missed by all.

Photos via @bellahadid @kendalljenner @haileybieber @kimkardashian & Sneaker Freaker

Sending Love & Light To Virgil’s Family + Children

His wife Shannon, and children Grey and Lowe Abloh

Photos via WWD, The Recent Times, TodayNow24, Ecelebsbio, ZMFGrand (Twitter)

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Author: Pamela Valdez

Content Writer Intern for She's SINGLE Magazine, Social Media Marketing Intern, and PR Editorial Intern for Access by NKC. Pursuing fashion industry and will be an upcoming undergraduate at FIT.