Obituaries

Fashion Designer and DJ Virgil Abloh Left a Lasting Mark in Miami

Virgil Abloh (left) was no stranger to Miami's cultural scene.
Virgil Abloh (left) was no stranger to Miami's cultural scene. Photo by World Red Eye
Virgil Abloh, the fashion, music, and cultural polymath, died yesterday at age 41 after a private two-year battle with cancer.

Born to Ghanaian parents, Abloh held degrees in engineering and architecture, and his seemingly endless capacity for creativity took various forms. He became a fixture in high fashion with his Off-White label and eventual position as the first Black artistic director for Louis Vuitton's menswear line.

A New York Times obituary noted that his mother was a seamstress and taught him to sew. He transformed his reveries and intuition into clothing, gaining prominence in Paris. His successes in the fashion industry eventually flowed into music, where the two worlds intertwined; Off-White was worn by the likes of Lebron James and Rihanna.

Abloh, who was born in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois, worked as Kanye West's creative director in 2010 and produced the cover art to West's and Jay-Z's opus, Watch the Throne, among others. As a DJ, he won the hearts and minds of electronic music lovers with his audacious genre-flipping. In little time, he could maneuver techno to hip-hop to jazz — and keep the crowd engaged.

Among critics and the public alike, reaction to Abloh's work tended to be polarizing, with some hailing him as a visionary and others dismissing his work as slipshod, he was a tireless creator whose agile imagination was impossible to mimic. Abloh produced music with Boys Noize, designed transparent CDJs in collaboration with Pioneer, and rose to fame as an international DJ who spun in Miami often.

Club Space owner and III Points founder David Sinopoli fondly recalls Abloh's early gigs at the now-closed Bardot.

"I think he played Bardot six times — he was playing hip-hop," Sinopoli recounts. "One time, he played No Doubt in the middle of his set. His song selection was always on point and always got everyone really hyped. He started playing techno around 2016 and found a lot of authenticity in the scene."

Crowds flocked to see Abloh, who always seemed to choose the right music to please the underground crowd and mainstream partygoers in equal measure. His DJ'ing persona is sonically engraved throughout Miami, from Club Space to LIV and Story and festivals like Rakastella and Winter Music Conference and Miami Art week parties.

One of Abloh's last sets came last month at this year's III Points festival. He was scheduled to play the Circoloco Miami during Art Basel this week, alongside DJs Seth Troxler and Honey Dijon.

In a 2019 New Yorker profile by Doreen St. Félix, Abloh touched on the literal results of merging music with fashion — two mediums creating a unified product. "When I have Michael Jackson singing in the background, it's a different type of shirt, it's a different kind of boot, it's a different fit of pants."

Abloh's Instagram account notes that he is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.
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Grant Albert is a writer born and raised in Miami. He likes basset hounds, techno, and rock climbing — in that order.
Contact: Grant Albert