Virgil Abloh lived a full and adventurous life. In the short span of 41 years, the Ghanaian-American designer who died of cancer on Nov 28, managed to accomplish high-profile projects worth several lifetimes. Apart from running his own fashion label, Off-White, and leading Louis Vuitton’s menswear atelier, Abloh remained relentlessly in the spotlight through collaborations with brands like IKEA, Nike, Levi’s, Vitra, and Mercedes Benz.
With degrees in civil engineering and architecture, Abloh embraced a polymath’s attitude, leaping between graphic design, fashion, product design, art, furniture, interiors, and everything in between. As a DJ, he had an acuity for mash-ups and often remixed traditional beats with cutting edge; east and west; white with black; pop culture and fine art.
The results weren’t always spectacular but Abloh, in a 2018 interview with the New York Times, argued that “there’s no failure in constantly creating.” At the time of the launch of his Vitra project in 2020, he described creative collaborations as a unification strategy—a way to bring together different populations and points of view. “My mission has not changed; my hope for this collaboration is to further strengthen this bond with the new generation,” Abloh explained. “This collaboration invites the new generation into the conversation; my work is meant to open doors for them.”
Here’s an extensive, if still incomplete, list of Abloh’s many collaborations:
As the rare Black executive in the luxury fashion industry, Abloh was a beacon for many aspiring designers of color—a role that he took seriously. “I’m here to be an inspiration,” he said to ICON magazine. “I’m a son of two African parents who came to America to give their children opportunity. I could easily be the kid in Accra, Ghana, with limited means, without the access… Every day I wake up and think, what can be done?”
Ultimately, Abloh exemplified the bridge-building gifts of working across industries. Judging from the cascade of condolence notes, he made friends with artists, architects, athletes, actors, and designers of all specializations.
Andy Cruz, co-founder of the type foundry House Industries, recalls how their friendship began after receiving a compliment from Abloh out of the blue. “Our common interests built a golden thread of things we loved: fonts, family, Porsches—in no particular order. When I heard today’s news I couldn’t help but think of Shaker leader Mother Ann Lee’s line: ‘Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow’,” Cruz wrote on Instagram.