Frank Ocean and Edward Enninful lead tributes to visionary designer Virgil Abloh, dead at 41

Tributes are paid to Virgil Abloh, who died at the age of 41

Musicians, editors and celebrities have paid tribute to designer Virgil Abloh, who has died aged 41 from a rare form of cancer. 

News of Abloh’s death was announced on Sunday (28 November), with the designer having kept his cardiac angiosarcoma diagnosis private for several years. 

Abloh trained as an architect but was best known as a pioneering fashion designer.

He founded the luxury streetwear label Off-White and became the first Black man to serve as men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton. His work also spanned visual arts, furniture design – including collaborations with IKEA, and music – he was a DJ and a close collaborator of Kanye West. 

Virgil Abloh attends The 2021 Met Gala (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Frank Ocean was among those to pay tribute to the polymath. On Instagram, he wrote: “In 2018, I believe it was, I called V and asked him how it was possible to play hundreds of shows a year and do numerous fashion collections a year and be a father and a husband and return EVERYONE’s texts with enthusiasm and emojis and encouragement and seemingly… with ease.

“I cannot remember how he responded verbatim but I’m sure it was quotable whatever he said. He was always quotable.”

He continued: “The gist of his response was that he was interested in living and living to the maximum extent of his level… which proved to be impossible today because he was BEYOND.”

Ocean added that his late brother Ryan, who was killed in a car crash last year, aged 18, “really looked up to” the designer.

“When my brother passed I never said anything because it was way too much but he loved you and really looked up to you. He was going to fashion school and everything. He wanted to be a designer.”

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

Celebrities paid tribute to the designer, who LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault described as a “visionary” after his death.

British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful wrote: “Virgil Abloh changed the fashion industry. Famously prolific, he always worked for a greater cause than his own illustrious career: to open the door to art and fashion for future generations, so that they – unlike himself – would grow up in a creative world with people to mirror themselves in.

“Virgil believed that anything was possible for humankind, if only we could tear ourselves away from unconscious biases and norms and reassume the imagination we had as children. His achievements won’t just live on.

“They will continue to evolve, because we are only seeing the beginning of his impact on the creative industries and surrounding world. My thoughts are with his family and all those who loved him. Rest in peace, Virgil, a giant among men.”

Singer-songwriter Kehlani tweeted: “Rest in absolute peace. Shocking. Thank you Virgil.”

Actor Riz Ahmed said that Abloh had “stretched culture”.

“Rest in Power Virgil Abloh. Gone too soon but your legacy lives on,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Stretched culture and changed the game. Thank you for all you did to support so many, and how you pushed us to reimagine what’s possible.”

Hailey Bieber share photos of herself in her wedding dress, which was designed by Abloh, and wrote on Instagram: “Virgil completely changed the way I looked at street style and fashion, the way he looked at things inspired me deeply.

“I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have known him and worked with him, from walking on his runways to having him design my wedding dress, and all the other amazing moments in-between, I felt he was always rooting for me.”

She added that Abloh was a “once-in-a-generation creative mind that is so rare”.

Kid Cudi, another close collaborator and friend of Abloh, shared a video of the pair performing together.

“We were jut together loving life bringin joy to all [sic],” he said.

In April, Abloh and Cudi were praised for a touching tribute to Kurt Cobain.

Cudi wore a floral dress designed by Abloh to perform Sad People on SNL, in a show falling close to the 27th anniversary of Cobain’s death.

Cobain wore a similar dress on a 1993 cover of The Face magazine.

After wearing the dress on the show, Cudi said: “I told him (Abloh) I wanted to show love with a floral print sundress and this man made a masterpiece. Thank you, Virgil Abloh, ur a f***in’ genius!! Love you, man, we did it!!!”