AUSTIN (KXAN) — To summarize Virgil Abloh’s influence on the luxury fashion industry would be nearly impossible, said Michelle Washington, an Austin-based TV style expert. But through his pioneering work as a leading Black creative in the luxury men’s fashion world, Washington said he’s left an indelible mark on the field and emerging artists.
“He allowed Black people to dream,” she said. “He opened that door for dreaming again. And this was for a marginalized section of the community, where opportunities may or may not have been available. But here Virgil was, being a breaker of glass ceilings.”
Abloh was an American fashion designer known for his work as artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and as founder and CEO of fashion house Off-White. He died Sunday, age 41, following a 2019 diagnosis of cardiac angiosarcoma, a form of cancer.
Abloh made history as the first Black designer to take the helm as artistic director of a French luxury fashion house, Washington said. His designs helped modernize luxury men’s fashion, carrying it into the 21st century and beyond, she added.
“He was a symbol of a movement,” she said. “He was the zeitgeist of the times of what we recognize as a modern menswear designer — virtually a pioneer in all of this, in the single span of his career.”
She credited the “visionary color” and artistry his designs brought to Parisian runways, and for reimagining what designs could succeed and perform at the luxury level.
Prior to his career in luxury fashion, Abloh earned degrees in civil engineering and architecture. Those elements of his personal history, Washington said, played into the identity of his designs and his artistic eye for detail.
“He was coming from a different aspect of building and creating, and then he took a shift into the fashion industry,” she said. “He could see things that other people couldn’t see because of his different background and perspective coming into the creative field.”
For emerging creatives and Black designers, Washington said his work left a monumental impact and rewrote the possibilities of what could be achieved. Combining his designs and artistic vision with his history-making achievements as a Black designer in luxury fashion, she said the legacy of his work will be felt for generations to come.
“His mark on the luxury industry in fashion will not be erased,” she said. “It will be something that people will landmark to the end of time, because of what he was able to dream and achieve.”