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The sudden news that designer Virgil Abloh died at the age of 41 shocked the world, with many taking to social media to share tributes, memories and anecdotes. The founder of Off-White and creative director of men’s at Louis Vuitton passed away after a private two-year battle with cancer. He was widely considered to have single-handedly changed the industry and opened doors for an entire generation of artists within fashion, art and music.
WWD’s Paris bureau chief Joelle Diderich said: “The first time I met Virgil Abloh, I walked away after a 45-minute conversation completely sold on his vision. He was the kind of guy who had a theory about everything. Over the course of almost eight years, we had many further long conversations on topics from design to inclusivity, but mainly he talked about changing the system.”
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WWD’s Milan fashion editor Alessandra Turra recalled the long conversation she had with Abloh in June 2017, about his show at Pitti Uomo, when he discussed his own take on the concept of temperature.
“It’s a metaphor within my vocabulary system to sort of describe a moment of something that’s already existing. Take the weather, for example — if it’s cold or hot outside, it changes your mood, it changes everything. Humans are responsive to temperature,” he said. “The collection is in my way describing temperature influencing people and climate and the globe, the ecosystem.”
Here are some choice quotes from a true groundbreaker who changed the industry:
“Fashion is one of the greatest vehicles to merge music, art, architecture, design, typography — it’s a wide enough canvas, or a big enough sandbox, to touch all the different things that I’m into.”
“There’s a fear, it’s like a creative thing, like you might miss the next idea by just not being in the right place at the right time or being open to seeing the trends evolve. Culture moves at a crazy pace.”
“The one thing that I think the luxury market needs to understand is that culture has changed. I don’t know if there’s any way to underline that any further. This should be in bold writing — that luxury by a 17-year-old’s standard is completely different than his parents’. His version of luxury is streetwear.”
“A 17-year-old can be more advanced and often is more advanced than a 45-year-old, so my design theory and the culture that surrounds Off-White is nontraditional.”
“I believe in mentoring, because I know that the barrier for me took many years and a lot of hours [to overcome]. I don’t really adopt that same philosophy that another kid who’s younger has to jump through all those hoops before he can be in Paris and do that.”
“For me, the only thing I truly am is a creative person. I have ideas across all categories, so in a way it’s a matter of understanding and offering a suggestion to what the future could hold. Fashion is just one field of many that design can be applied to.”
“My general premise is not about selling clothes. If that’s your end goal, then all of a sudden everything looks the same, you know — you start designing by numbers.”
“I feel like, what’s the point of design and art if you’re not creating and thinking freely? It’s the duty of artists to dream out loud in a productive way. For me, it’s depressing if an industry based on creativity just makes decisions on a practical basis.”
“I grew up feeling that design wasn’t for me, because I didn’t see anyone like me in design.”
“Someone said [my appointment at Louis Vuitton] felt like [Barack] Obama getting elected president — like the same epiphany. We got that it was possible, but we didn’t think [it would happen]. When it’s official, it’s different.”
“The idea is to find chicness. I think there’s an absolute beauty that exists within every moment in culture, and so I’m trying to make things that are youthful, timely and timeless, but in a quality that’s surprising.”