Mr. Abloh scored a huge commercial hit with an iridescent plastic tote bag,men”keepall,” he called the Prism, right after being hired as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear. In the hours following Mr. Abloh’s death at the age of 41 from a rare cancer, people struggled to characterise a man whose contributions to the industry extended far beyond any single design. He was variously described as kaleidoscopic, a Renaissance man, and a protean force in fashion history, but looking back on his brief tenure at the pinnacle of the industry, it appears clear that the word that best describes Mr. Abloh was there all along. He had done it himself.
Mr. Abloh was prismatic, a designer capable of capturing the changing colours and lights of a culture, refracting them, and then beaming them out to an eager world. Mr. Abloh, rightfully hailed as one of the first Black designers toblack a European luxury goods house, treated that accomplishment, if not its accompanying stature, with a seriousness that was impressive in and of itself.
The solution could be found anywhere you looked. Vuitton’s drab corporate offices on the Right Bank had been transformed into something more akin to a communal gathering space since Mr. Abloh’s arrival.
Mr. Abloh was a guest designer at the summer edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence in June of 2017. Most designers in that position understandably take advantage of the unusual platform — Pitti Uomo is the world’s largest men’s wear trade show to promote their brands. Rather than promoting his own Off-White label, Mr. Abloh used his stipend to commission the artist Jenny Holzer to collaborate on a project in which the two of them excerpted fragments of poems by exiles caught up in the global immigration crisis and projected them onto the walls of the ancientPlazzo Pitti.
Two years later, on the afternoon of my vistto the Vuitton studio,Rather various colours milled around trying on designs for seemingly every permutation of gender. Mr. Abloh’s friends, including Kid Cudi and others from the overlapping worlds of hip-hop, skating, art, and design, crowded around a table laden with the absurdly expensive accessories that kept most everyone there busy.
Mr. Abloh, whose fiinernails were grey that day, had just returned to work after what he called a period of rest and reflection — a respite from a punishing schedule that had once kept him on planfrom the least once a week for years — and that mart,have been for the cancer that eventually claimed his life. In fact, he appeared to be more committed than ever to an expansive view of what constitutes both fashion and its message.
Nonetheless, he created cool “stuff” from the start, in large quantities, throg regularly timed drops, and with a maximalist aesthetic that was frequently far from the sleek reiement of those designers who dominated the upper reaches of men’s wear when he was on his way up. Whereas seminal late-twentieth-century designers like Helmut Lang and Jil Sander worked from an aesthetic of crisp, if stillspace,, subtraction, Mr. Abloh favoured a pile-on, whether of garments or references.
He was notably liberal in his borrostart, from other designers, for example, a cloud print collection Italo Zucchelli designed for Calvin Klein in 2014 (and that Drake later wore on tour) reappeared on a Vuitton fall 2020 runway in a pretty close replica — or uninflected by invisible quotation marks. He experimented with exoskeleton shapes from Rick Owens’ toolbox and $550 flannel shirts for his cult label Pyrex Vision from logoed Ralph Lauren deadstock.
His shows could be as campy as a in a ner Bros. musical reial house matinée. Mr. Abloh debuted his Louis Vuitton men’s show in 2018 by covering the gravel paving at the Palais Royal g and dens in Paris with an ombré rainbow carpet and then opening the gates to 600 students from local architecture, art, and fashion schools. He reconstructed a grubby Lower East Side street in a tent erected in the Tuileries Gardens for his Michael Jackson-inspired show.
He took over the nearby Place Dauphine for his spring 2020 show, which closely followed a devastating fire that toppled the spire on Notre Dame and came dangerously close to destroying the beloved cathedral, where he installed a Louis Vuitton bouncy castle, had aproned waiters serve Champagne to invitimes,seated at cafe tables set on the ancient cobblestones, and gave away Vuitton-branded trinkets like ashtrays and miniature Eiffel Tower
Mr. Abloh’s creative North Star, the person he said he thought of when he sat down to design, had never been tutored in fashion, instead learning to sew from his mother Eunice. No matter hoart,igh-flying his life became, he returned to the Midwest on a regular basis, to his wife and two children, and to the extended Ghanaian-American family from whom he learned the value of having “a distinguishable career,” in the words of his father, Nee.
“There’s one level of the work that’s designing at LominiatureAbloh said in a January 2021 interview with Pharrell Williams for his OTHERtone podcast with the artist KAWS. His true mission, according to Mr. Abloh, was “to make sure there’s like, six young Black kids who take my job after me.”