Who is Virgil Abloh?
If you’re like me, you may have heard his name, brand, or know of his many famous friends, but you probably do not know who he really is and what has led to his great success. Read on to find out how Virgil Abloh got his start in the fashion industry and gained enough attention and respect to hold leadership roles for several different brands.
Virgil Abloh was born in 1980, in Chicago, to Ghanaian parents. His mother was a seamstress, exposing him early on to some facets of fashion, but he didn’t realize his interest in the industry until much later.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 and went on to study architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. During this time, while working for an architecture firm, he became interested in “skate clothing” and started making frequent shopping trips to New York City and blogging about the brands. It was around this time that he went from designing buildings to designing T-shirts, shifting his focus to fashion. According to Abloh though, “I didn't make a conscious decision one day that I wanted to be a designer.”
Virgil submitted some of his design work to a screen-printing store in Chicago, and they ended up offering him a job. It is here that he met Kanye West, when his tour manager, Don C, came in to commission work. Kanye ended up hiring Abloh to help him work on his interests beyond music, such as contemporary art and high fashion.
In 2009, the friends both worked as interns at Fendi and partnered with Louis Vuitton on a sneaker collection. That same year, Abloh founded an art gallery called RSVP Gallery in Chicago, and became creative director of Kanye’s agency Donda, overseeing stage shows and concert merchandise. “Virgil's role at DONDA was to figure out how aspiration could be turned into actual projects. It was about going from minute details to the broadest possible reach.”
Through this position, Abloh and West collaborated creatively on several projects. Abloh received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package for his cover design for the Jay-Z/Kanye West album Watch the Throne.
In 2012, Abloh launched his first fashion brand, Pyrex Vision, known for its screen-printed logos onto shirts from classic brands like Champion and Ralph Lauren rugby shirts. The following year, he morphed this brand into his luxury street-style label Off-White of which he serves as CEO. It combines graphics and unique details with designer styles and has collaborated with several well-known brands, such as Nike. The brand has 24 stores worldwide and is worn by celebrities like ASAP Rocky, Rihanna, and Beyoncé. In 2015, Off-White was an LVMH Prize finalist.
In March of 2018, Louis Vuitton named Abloh artistic director of its men’s wear collection. This strategic move will help transition the iconic brand into a new era of modern fashion. His first show in the position was held in Paris at the gardens of the Palais Royale on a rainbow-colored runway with famous friends in attendance. As you could guess from the picture, it was extremely memorable for all those lucky enough to have a coveted seat.
Besides running his fashion brand, Abloh has designed furniture for Ikea and taught classes at the prestigious Architectural Association School in London. He also DJs under the alias Flat-White and travels all over the globe. This past year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
So what’s next for the incredibly talented man who seems to have reached a pinnacle of success and a lifestyle many only dream of having? We will have to keep watching and see, but while we wait, we can be sure, it will be worthwhile.