AUSTIN (KXAN) – To sum up, Virgil Abloh’s influence on the luxury fashion industry would be next to impossible, said Michelle Washington, an Austin-based television style expert. But through his pioneering work as a leading black designer in the luxury menswear world, Washington said he has left an indelible mark on the field and emerging artists.
“He made black people dream,” she said. “He opened this door to dream again. And that was for a marginalized part of the community, where opportunities may or may not have been available. But here Virgil was a breaker of glass ceilings.
Abloh was an American fashion designer known for his work as the artistic director of the Louis Vuitton menswear collection and as the founder and CEO of the Off-White fashion house. He died Sunday, at the age of 41, from a 2019 diagnosis of angiosarcoma, a form of cancer.
Abloh made history as the first black designer to take over the artistic direction of a French luxury fashion house, Washington said. Her designs have helped modernize luxury menswear, taking it into the 21st century and beyond, she added.
“He was the symbol of a movement,” she said. “He was the fashion of what we recognize as a designer of modern men’s clothing – practically a trailblazer in all of this, in the only period of his career.”
She credited the “visionary color” and artistry that her designs brought to the Parisian catwalks, and for reinventing designs that could succeed and perform at the luxury level.
Prior to his career in luxury fashion, Abloh obtained degrees in civil engineering and architecture. These elements of his personal history, Washington said, have played into the identity of his designs and his artistic sense of detail.
“He came from a different aspect of building and creating and then he turned to the fashion industry,” she said. “He could see things that others could not see due to his different experience and perspective in the creative realm.”
For emerging creatives and black designers, Washington said his work left a monumental impact and rewrote the possibilities of what could be achieved. Combining her designs and artistic vision with her historic accomplishments as a black designer in luxury fashion, she said the legacy of her work will be felt for generations to come.
“Her mark on the luxury fashion industry will not be erased,” she said. “It will be something that people will mark until the end of time, because of what he could dream and achieve.”