ROCKFORD — Local residents took to social media Sunday to remember Virgil Abloh, a Rockford native who went on to become one of the most influential and creative figures in modern art, fashion and design.
Abloh died Sunday at the age of 41. According to his verified Instagram account, he was privately battling a rare form of cancer for the past two years.
As news of Abloh’s death spread across the globe Sunday, Abloh’s alma mater, Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford, released the following statement:
“The Boylan Catholic High School community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our 1998 alumnus, Virgil Abloh, a 2019 Alumni Excellence Awardee. Virgil Abloh was an amazing force in all he did and made an incredible impact on the world.
“He was a groundbreaking artist on a global stage, daring collaborator and an inspiration and advocate for new artists. Our prayers are with his wife, children, parents and sister. Rest in peace. Once a Titan always a Titan.”
The Rockford Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau posted the following message on Facebook:
“Here in his hometown, we join the global community to share our deepest condolences to Virgil Abloh’s family and loved ones after hearing of his passing today.
He was a courageous visionary, and his legacy will continue to be a bright light inspiring others to break barriers with creativity and valor. Please take a moment with us to remember this Rockford native and honor him today and always.”
Abloh was the artistic director of the Louis Vuitton menswear collection. He was also CEO and founder of the Milan-based label Off-White. He was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2018.
That same year, Abloh and sportswear giant Nike collaborated on Nike x Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh’s collection soccer jerseys. Abloh sent the very first set of jerseys along with a bag of Nike gear to Boylan soccer players with the message “Once a Titan, always a Titan.”
In 2019, Abloh’s parents Nee and Eunice Abloh and his sister Edwina Abloh were special guests at Boylan’s 11th annual Alumni Recognition Awards to accept the Alumni Excellence Award on his behalf.
Condolences on Abloh’s passing flooded social media Sunday from international fashion houses to celebrities spanning art, sports, music and people back home in Rockford.
Our City, Our Story, a website dedicated to sharing the stories of Rockford’s most precious people and places, posted:
“Upon hearing the passing of Virgil Abloh, we would like to take a moment to share our condolences to the family, close friends and frankly the world that he inspired.
Born and raised in Rockford, Virgil was an intense creator. We all are at a loss for words upon hearing of this tragic news. His illness was private, but let’s not have our appreciation be silent.”
On Facebook, Emma Walker of Rockford wrote:
“Absolutely no words for this loss. Virgil was one of the greatest creatives of this generation, being the creative director for Louis Vuitton and CEO of Off White brand, among others.
“He touched the lives of so many around the globe, from Hollywood’s top elites, to children of poverty with similar dreams of becoming creatives, to entire foreign cultures, all the way back to here at home in Rockford, IL.”
The city of Rockford acknowledged Abloh’s passing as well.
“REST IN PEACE: We’re sad to learn of the loss of this incredibly talented Rockford native,” the city shared on social media.
“While I didn’t know Virgil personally, I followed his career as a trailblazer in the design and art fields,” wrote Alderman Bill Rose. “As a Rockford native and Boylan graduate, I wish him Godspeed.”
Abloh was married to his high school sweetheart, Shannon (Sundberg) Abloh. The couple has two children.