While the world comes to terms with the reality of the shocking news, it is important that we reflect on the life and times of this African-American creative genius to appreciate his contribution to humanity better. Abloh is highly credited for breaking the stereotype around Black people in the creative fashion industry.
Although there still exists a robust racial prejudice against Black people in the international fashion scene – which even Abloh often acknowledged, he was able to walk up the ranks and put African Americans on the fashion map. Ten years ago, who would have thought that a fashion powerhouse like Louis Vuitton would appoint a Black man as its Artistic Director?
However, being a victim of his reputation, in 2020, the African-American Artistic Director came under backlash from #BlackLivesMatter supporters for making a 50 USD donation in support of the George Floyd Murder protests. Unknown to them, Abloh was battling cancer.
The Official Announcement
In a release that has sent shock waves across the fashion industry and those who know the lively and ever-smiling Virgil Abloh, the menswear designer died today of cancer at 41. Announcing the sad news, his team made a Press Release through his official Instagram account.
"We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife Shannon Abloh, his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh, his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh, and numerous dear friends and colleagues," the post read.
"For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.
Why Does #BlackLivesMatter Owe Him an Apology?
As is with many issues of this nature, many must have forgotten the backlash Virgil Abloh came under after his 50 USD donation to the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd.
Supporters of the movement, especially African-Americans, were quick to judge the designer and drag him on the streets of social media over his comments and donation.
Although he would come to apologize for his words and make a bigger donation, he was obviously not forgiven. The movement didn't release an official statement to accept his apology or ask its supporters to stop the hate speech directed at him.
If only we all knew what the poor Virgil Abloh was battling at that time. Also, that would have been a good time for the designer to open up on his condition and soak up some sympathy, but being the warrior he was, he didn't.
Did Virgil Abloh Have a Wrong Message?
Looking backward, did Virgil Abloh have a wrong message? Was he a sell-out as many proclaimed? Did he really believe that the #BlackLivesMatter was a joke and unnecessary?
Abloh came under intense backlash for his comments and donation – which many critics claimed was an insult to the cause. But what really did he say?
As you know, the #BlackLivesMatter protests were hijacked by hoodlums who used the opportunity to loot stores and rob people of their properties. One industry that was greatly hit as a result of the looting was the fashion industry, as many fashion stores were looted and items worth millions of dollars carted away.
In his reaction, Abloh said, "Our own communities, our own shops … this shop was built with blood sweat and tears.
"Today that same community robbed us. If that heals your pain, you can have it …" the caption read.
He also wrote a passionate comment under a post by Sean Wotherspoon, the owner of Round Two. It read:
"You see the passion, blood, sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me. To the kids that ransacked his store and RSVP DTLA, and all our stores in our scene just know, that product staring at you in your home/apartment right now is tainted and a reminder of a person I hope you aren't. We're a part of a culture together. Is this what you want?? When you walk past him in the future please have the dignity to not look him in the eye, hang your head in shame…."
Verdict: You be the Judge
If you read closely, you will notice that Abloh wasn't against the protests or the #BlackLivesMatter agenda. He was speaking to those who hijacked the protests and looted personal businesses; he was speaking for his industry as a stakeholder – one who was saddened by the turn of events. He was touched because he knew how much the actions of a few would cost many more in the future.
You be the judge. Was he wrong? Did he deserve the backlash he faced? Does Virgil Abloh deserve an apology?