Virgil Abloh remembered in Milwaukee for profound impact on fashion industry and beyond

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- From the fashion houses of Paris to art studios in Milwaukee, designer Virgil Abloh was remembered as a pioneer who broke down barriers and left a lasting legacy.

Abloh died Sunday, Nov. 28 from a rare form of heart cancer, a diagnosis he kept private. He was 41.

"To see such an influential man leave at such an early age, it was devastating," said DJ Hines, who met Abloh and became friends with him at UW-Madison while the two were studying there in the early 2000s.

Abloh earned a civil engineering degree from UW-Madison. His career eventually led him to fashion where he launched his own brand, Off-White. Abloh also became Louis Vuitton's first Black artistic director for menswear.

Experts like Ashley Brooks, the chairperson of the fashion department at Mount Mary University, said Abloh epitomized where the industry was going.

"To me, he was the embodiment of what fashion really needed right now," Brooks said.

Brooks added Abloh's influence went beyond the places he worked.

"He brought legitimacy to streetwear, and you can see that influence at Louis Vuitton and you can also see it in other brands," Brooks said.

Abloh also inspired Milwaukee artists, including WebsterX, an experimental hip hop artist.

"He's a trailblazer to me," WebsterX told CBS 58 in an interview.

WebsterX said Abloh's path to success including Wisconsin means a lot for artists like him. That impact was felt in particular with Abloh's work, including clothing that took designs inspired by his time at UW-Madison.

"When he did the Off-White-Wisconsin collab, people would get so hyped about that kind of stuff," WebsterX saiad. When you see it first, you're like, wow, what? I have a connection to that and that's so important for artists in a place like Milwaukee or a place like Wisconsin."

DJ Hines said Abloh's work to break down barriers and open the door for other artists of color in the industry will have an impact for years to come.

"It meant so much for the culture, it meant so much for fashion and for sports, and I think that we may never see another Virgil, which means that his legacy is rich and absolutely profound in things he was able to accomplish," Hines said.

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