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Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton artistic director and Off-White founder, dies of cancer at 41

Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton and founder of Off-White, died Sunday following a private fight with cancer, both companies announced Sunday. Abloh was 41. 

"We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom. The LVMH family joins me in this moment of great sorrow, and we are all thinking of his loved ones after the passing of their husband, their father, their brother or their friend," said Bernard Arnault, the chief executive officer of LVMH.

Abloh battled cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, according to a statement posted to his Instagram account. "He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture," the post read.

"Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, 'Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,' believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations."

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh in 2019. Edward Berthelot / Getty

Alboh was born in Rockford, Illinois, on September 30, 1980. He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later earned a master's degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

In 2010, Kanye West named Abloh to be his creative director, and two years later, Abloh founded the high-end streetwear brand Off-White, which became known for its highly sought-after collaborations with brands such as Nike, Ikea, Chrome Hearts and Jimmy Choo. In 2018, he made history, becoming the first Black artistic director at Louis Vuitton. 

"I take pride in the fact that there's a kid who's living in, you know, Alabama, who never thought something like this was possible for him, almost to the point that he made life and career decisions to find some other thing he was passionate about. But all of a sudden, because I'm here, he knows [he can do it too],"  Abloh told GQ in 2018. 

"I'm not doing that for myself. I'm doing it to be a beacon of hope for someone. This is the legacy of any artist or creative: you want to make sure that your work makes an impact."

Celebrities across music and fashion mourned Abloh's death on social media. "My plan is to touch the sky 1,000 more times for you… love you eternally brother. thank you for everything," Drake wrote on Instagram

Jerry Lorenzo, the fashion designer, wrote: "thank you… you opened both physical and mental doors for me, that allowed me to see what was possible for my life. i am forever grateful. what you did for the world, is beyond words."

Abloh is survived by his wife, Shannon, and his children, Lowe and Grey. 

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