Designer and Creator
In 2008, the Wisconsin Alumni Association rolled out The Red Shirt™, a T-shirt designed to support UW–Madison’s Great People Scholarship. WAA has introduced a new design each year, and in 2015, it decided to offer a unique, limited-edition of the shirt.
That’s where Virgil Abloh BS2003, who is widely recognized for his high-end fashion label, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, came in. When the opportunity arose to work on a limited edition of The Red Shirt™, Abloh offered an immediate yes. Instead of designing just one shirt, he developed a series of three with the theme #OffWisconsin. All proceeds from The Red Shirt™, Limited Edition by Virgil Abloh went to the Off-Scholarship, a new fund that he established to provide need-based financial aid to incoming freshmen at UW–Madison.
Before achieving success as an international fashion designer, Abloh soaked in all that the UW campus had to offer with his former roommate and 2015 Forward under 40 Award recipient Gabriel Stulman BA2003. Abloh and his friends shopped at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, threw dinner parties, and went to bars on the Capitol Square instead of the typical student hangouts. “[Gabriel and I] were the kids who stuck out like a sore thumb,” he says. “We were trying to live the most sophisticated young lifestyle possible.”
Abloh’s time in the UW College of Engineering provided him with the problem-solving skills that have been invaluable throughout his career. “That’s where I learned to multitask,” he says. After graduating from the UW, Abloh, who was a 2016 recipient of WAA’s Forward under 40 Award, earned his master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
He’s now the owner of the RSVP Gallery clothing store in Chicago, and he flew to Paris in May 2015 as the only American finalist for the prestigious Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Prize for Young Fashion Designers. He also expresses his creativity as DJ Flat White and serves as the creative director for music icon Kanye West.
Virgil Abloh will be the next artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, one of the oldest and most powerful European houses in the luxury business. He becomes Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, and one of the few black designers at the top of a French heritage house.