The man who protracted the street to the ramp


Farewell, Virgil Apollo: The Man Who Proved the Street to the Ramp

File photo of Virgil Apollo. (Image courtesy: AFP)


  • Virgil Apollo passed away on Sunday at the age of 41
  • Virgil Apollo launched Pirex Vision in 2012 with his first clothing label.
  • He was the first black creative director at Louis Vuitton


Virgil Apollo redesigned the profile of a fashion designer, combining street wear, music and high fashion, and breaking glass roofs as the first black creative director at Louis Vuitton. Apollo died on Sunday at the age of 41, and few know that he has been battling cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare type of cancer since 2019.

His partnership with Kanye West elevated Apollo from the skate and DJ culture of Chicago to the heights of the fashion world, first his own red-hot label off-white, and then the pinnacle of the traditional luxury industry in Paris.

Her cancer was diagnosed a year after she was appointed head of Louis Vuitton menswear, becoming the first black person to hold the position of artistic director at a prestigious French fashion house.

He redesigned the label on his film and integrated street wear, social media and celebrities, which did not prevent him from maintaining a tough schedule while at the same time moonlighting as IKEA’s DJ and furniture designer.

“All I do is for the 17-year-old edition of me,” he was often quoted as saying, adding that the impressions he had of his youth made him breathe new life into the catwalk.

Accident Designer

Apollo, the son of Ghanaian immigrants, studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, but his career took a surprising turn after his design ideas caught West’s attention, and in 2007 he hired him as his creative director.

The couple was determined to reshape the high fashion world and received an internship in 2009 at Fendi in Rome in an attempt to learn the business.

Apollo launched Pirex Vision in 2012 with its first clothing label.

“I never made the conscious decision one day that I wanted to be a designer,” he told GQ. “I created Pyrex, which was like a work of art in my mind … and I needed clothing to support this idea.”

Pyrex quickly turned off-white, mixing urban style with high-quality stitching and storming the fashion world.

Its trademark diagonal stripes are associated with contradictory messaging often putting fashion words in quotation marks on his clothes.

It all added to Aplo’s youthful charm, as he embraced Instagram (he had 6.5 million followers at the time of his death).

His 2017 collaboration with Nike became, in GQ’s words, “the official sneaker of celebrities everywhere,” and many tie-ups continued to spread from Jimmy Sue and Mankler to McDonald’s.

It sealed the deal.

When Louis Vuitton left, Apollo was the obvious candidate to replace Kim Jones the pioneer of luxury streetwear.


The reactions to his death seemed that Apollo had just arrived and was offering many more.

“We are all shocked by this terrible news,” said Bernard Arnold, chief executive of LVMH, a Louis Vuitton-owned group.

“Virgil was not only a genius designer, visionary, but also a man with a beautiful soul and excellent wisdom,” he added.

With the promise of “expanding opportunities for different people and fostering greater equity and inclusion in the businesses we serve”, Apollo is poised to provide a powerful voice for change in the fashion world.

His first show for Louis Vuitton will run on the Rainbow Runway in March 2018 with models from around the world.

Apollo faced some setbacks when he expressed anger over the riots in the United States in 2020 with protests against the assassination of George Floyd.

But, it did lower his status as a better person.

French football star Kylian Mbappe tweeted, “RIP VIRGIL ABLOH. No one will forget the impact you made. God bless you my friend”.

American singer Farrell Williams wrote on Instagram: “At Virgil you were a kind, generous, thoughtful creative genius. Your mission as a human being and your mission as a spiritual being will live on forever.”

Actor Reese Ahmed tweeted: “It’s too late, but your tradition lives on. It expanded the culture and changed the game. Thank you for supporting so many and inspiring us to re-imagine what is possible.”

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicate feed.)


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