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Virgil Abloh with Dean Ian Robertson
November 29, 2021

Groundbreaking designer, civil engineering alumnus Abloh passes away

Written By: Tom Ziemer

Virgil Abloh (BSCE ’03), a University of Wisconsin-Madison civil engineering alumnus who went on to forge a groundbreaking career as a fashion designer, died on November, 28, 2021, in Chicago. He was 41.

According to a statement posted on his Instagram account, Abloh died of a rare form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma, an illness that he had kept private.

Abloh took an unconventional path after graduating from UW-Madison and then earning a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He met rapper Kanye West while interning at the Italian fashion company Fendi and became West’s creative director, a role that led to Abloh launching his own Off-White clothing line in 2013.

Melding streetwear with high fashion, Abloh joined the iconic brand Louis Vutton in 2018 as the company’s first Black artistic director, overseeing its men’s wear. That same year, Time magazine named Abloh to its list of 100 most influential people. Abloh was known as a relentless creator and also gained notoriety as a DJ and artist.

In 2015, Abloh teamed up with the Wisconsin Alumni Association to design a limited edition of The Red Shirt, with proceeds going to a student scholarship fund bearing his name.

When asked about his engineering education and unconventional path in a 2015 interview for On Wisconsin magazine, Abloh said, “Everything I did, in some way, made this result happen.”

Read the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s announcement of Abloh’s passing.