Kanye West, Pharrell and Drake lead tributes after ‘genius’ designer Virgil Abloh dies aged 41

Entertainment

Kanye West, Rihanna and Drake are among many celebrities paying tribute to US fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who has died at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer.

The influential Louis Vuitton menswear designer and founder of fashion label Off-White was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma – a rare, aggressive form of cancer – in 2019, the design house’s parent company LVMH revealed on Sunday.

Abloh first came to prominence as rapper West’s creative director but later made history as the first African-American to lead French luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

West paid tribute to him with a message on the website of his creative agency Donda, which showed a grey background with the words: “IN LOVING MEMORY OF VIRGIL ABLOH THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF DONDA.”

West’s Sunday Service choir performed a cover of Adele’s Easy On Me which was livestreamed in his honour on Sunday, according to NME.

Their cover was a reworked version of the song’s original lyrics, with the choir singing “Go easy on me, father, I am still your child, and I need the chance to feel your love around” in the chorus.

Abloh was often hailed as one of the most influential designers in the fashion industry but was also a DJ, artist and had degrees in civil engineering and architecture.

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He was a DJ at house parties through college, later playing internationally including in Ibiza and Las Vegas.

A first-generation Ghanaian American whose seamstress mother taught him to sew, Abloh had no formal fashion training but gained success with groundbreaking fusions of streetwear and haute couture.

Drake shared a series of photos of himself with Abloh and said: “My plan is to touch the sky 1000 more times for you… love you eternally brother. Thank you for everything.”

“My heart is broken,” musician and producer Pharrell said.

“Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius. Your work as a human and your work as a spiritual being will live forever. Sending love and light to your wife, children, family and day ones. You’re with the Master now, shine.”

Supermodel Gigi Hadid said he “will be deeply missed, cherished, and celebrated by me and all the people and industries that have been lucky enough to work around & know the true supernova behind this man”.

She added: “I picture him now like our Mickey Mouse .. forever with us, forever adored, forever magical, forever guiding us.”

“RIP Virgil, you did so much for all of us and showed me so much love early on,” British rapper AJ Tracey tweeted. “Thank you for everything, so sad.”

Justin Timberlake called him a “force” that was “taken too soon”, adding: “You gave the world so much, in so little time. And created with intensity… knowing better than the rest of us that life is short, but anything is possible.

“I’m honored to have known you. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.”

Virgil Abloh has died aged 41
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Virgil Abloh was the first African-American to become Louis Vuitton’s artistic director

Rihanna shared a photo of the designer from her Instagram Stories.

American musician Questlove wrote on Instagram: “The teachable lesson here is disrupt. Provoke. Be controversial. Push buttons. Be a conversation piece…. live as a true artist.”

A statement on Abloh’s Instagram page said that throughout his illness his “work ethic, infinite curiosity and optimism” never wavered.

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It said he was driven by “his dedication to his craft… his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design”.

Abloh’s final Louis Vuitton collection, titled Virgil Was Here, will be presented in Miami on Tuesday.

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