It’s hard to contemplate how someone so young— he’s 38—has done so much. Born in Rockford, Illinois, to Ghanaian immigrant parents, Virgil graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in 2002, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, in 2006, with degrees in civil engineering and architecture. In his early twenties,Virgil negotiated a meeting with Kanye West while working as a DJ by the name of Flat White. (Brilliant.) Before long, he was designing Kanye’s merchandise, working as his style consultant, and art-directing his album with Jay Z, Watch the Throne (for which Virgil was nominated for a Grammy). Meanwhile, he was also starting his own fashion companies, selling dead-stock Ralph Lauren rugby shirts, and even interning at Fendi. By 2014, Virgil had launched his off-the-charts-hot brand Off-White, and in 2015, he was nominated for the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. He has partnered on projects with Levi’s, Nike, and Ikea. And now—wait for it—Virgil is the artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton, an appointment that shattered ceilings and sent reverberations through the fashion world.
To me, Virgil Abloh represents creative freedom in ways that few ever dream of, let alone realize. I wanted to figure out why Virgil has captured the imagination of so many people. I wanted to find out how he does so much and, more importantly, why he does it. And I wanted to know if his practice is really, as he has said, an “art practice.”