Who is Virgil Abloh? It's hard to put the elusive creative into a particular box. His is the name on everyone's lips in all corners of the fashion industry right now; he's killing it with his luxe streetwear output, Off-White, and he's racking up a lengthy list of collabs with global brands, running the gamut from Jimmy Choo to IKEA. At the same time, he's a well-mannered, Illinois-born guy; a dad of two who married his childhood sweetheart.
Abloh has recently been announced as the new Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton Menswear, and the fact that he didn't take a traditional route into fashion makes this even more impressive. Here, we track Abloh's journey to winning over the fashion industry with his youth-driven aesthetic and offbeat attitude.
1998: A fledgling DJ career
Aged 18, Abloh presents himself to the music industry as a DJ called Flat-White.
2002: Virgil meets Kanye
Abloh graduates with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the same year, he's introduced to Kanye and they instantly hit it off. Afterwards, despite being only 22, Abloh is given the role of Kanye's creative consultant, overseeing everything from album covers to tour set design.
Virgil graduates from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a master's in architecture. Of his decision to study this sort of design, he later told GQ that, "I wanted to build skyscrapers because I figured if you can build the tallest building, you could design a spoon, you know?"
2009: Interning at Fendi
2009 marked Abloh's shift in interest from architecture to fashion. Both Virgil and Kanye spent a period interning at Fendi in Rome, earning a $500 a month. In addition, Abloh launched RSVP Gallery, a Chicago-based menswear boutique-cum-gallery, and married his partner of 10 years, Shannon Sundberg.
2012: New lines, new designs
Abloh launches his first luxury streetwear brand, Pyrex Vision, which was defined by its bold screen-printed logos projected onto dead stock from brands like Ralph Lauren. Abloh also becomes part of a new creative collective, Been Trill, with Matthew Williams and Heron Preston.
2013: Endings and beginnings
While Pyrex ceased trading, 2013 wasn't a bad year for Abloh, as he went on to launch a new label, Off-White, in September. "With fashion you have to choose if you're high-end, contemporary or streetwear, men's or women's," Abloh later explained to the Business of Fashion. "Off-White is between black and white, there is no choice. It’s the idea that I wouldn't decide, which relates more to the consumer.”
2015: Off-White's glow-up
After presenting at Paris Fashion Week in September 2014, Off-White continues to shake up the fashion industry. As testament its impact, the luxe streetwear label is named as an LMVH Prize finalist for 2015.
2017: That Nike collab launches
Abloh was responsible for one of the buzziest sneaker launches in 2017 when his The Ten collab with Nike dropped.
2018: The Louis Vuitton news breaks
It's announced that Abloh will become Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton menswear. He'll be the first African-American designer to head up the fashion house.