Virgil Abloh: How trained architect became Louis Vuitton’s most powerful Black executive

It was a big blow to the global fashion world as the first African-American to head a French luxury fashion house, Virgil Abloh, died on Sunday at the age of 41.

Abloh, who served as the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear from 2018 until his death, died after a two-year battle with a rare, aggressive form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma.

He was the child of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in Chicago and trained as a civil engineer and then an architect.

He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Rise to prominence in the fashion world

Abloh met American rapper, Kanye West, with whom he began working in 2002 at the age of 22.

The duo interned at Fendi in 2009 and while working with West, Abloh caught the eye of the Louis Vuitton Chief Executive Officer, Michael Burke.

After a stint as the creative director of West’s design agency Donda, and art director for West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album , Abloh launched his own streetwear brand in Milan called Off-White.


Abloh: Home-trained award-winning designer

Though he had no formal training in fashion, he had learned much about clothing from his seamstress mother and ascended quickly, winning a British Fashion Award and collaborating with Warby Parker, Jimmy Choo, Ikea, and Nike while opening shops in New York and Tokyo.

In 2018, he was appointed as the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear, a position he held till his death.

This role made him the most powerful Black executive in the most powerful luxury group in the world, as described by

He was listed as one of magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2018.

In a bid to honour the first African-American to head the French fashion house, Louis Vuitton is set to pay a tribute to Virgil by hosting a presentation of his Spring-Summer 2022 Collection.