Bohten's lineage can be traced back to a long and storied history of black cultural innovators. Each month, we celebrate the inspiration of legendary icons who express their flair through culture, entertainment, public service, leadership and philanthropy.
The late Virgil Abloh was a Ghanaian-American fashion icon, who cemented his presence in the fashion industry as the first person of color to be named the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection. A trained architect, Abloh rose the ranks of fashion and music following an internship at Fendi, where he met rapper Kanye West. The pair would soon spearhead a collaboration that conceived the idea of his revered fashion brand, Off-White.
In 2018, Abloh was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He was applauded by fashion critics at world-renowned magazines, including Vogue, W and Business of Fashion for his forward-thinking artistry, helping to push Black culture and identity forward. What you may not know, though, was his connection to Ghanaian roots. Today, we pay homage to Virgil Abloh by recognizing how he gave back to the place of his heritage.
PAYING HOMAGE TO GHANAIAN CULTURE IN NEW LOUIS VUITTON FALL/WINTER 2021 COLLECTION
Last year, Abloh presented his AW21 collection, “Ebonics,” a showcase of classic designs merged with Kente fabrics to represent the contrast between his Ghanaian roots and his newfound success in Europe. The collection dominated fashion week, adding history and modernity to a market flooded with designs sketched primarily by White designers.
“When I grew up, my father wore Kente cloth, with nothing beneath it to family weddings, funerals, graduations,” he told Vogue. “When he went to an American wedding, he wore a suit. I merged those two together, celebrating my Ghanaian culture.”
VIRGIL ABLOH AND DAILY PAPER LINK UP TO HELP BRING NEW SKATE PARK TO GHANA
Abloh teamed up with Amsterdam-based fashion brand Daily Paper to bring the Freedom Skate Park to Ghana, according to a 2020 Complex article. The initiative, in partnership with social collective, Surf Ghana, and design studio, Limbo Accra, was created to give locals a safe space to grow their talents in the skating industry. The partnership also included an exclusive collaboration t-shirt designed by Abloh’s Off-White, with 100% of the proceeds going towards the park.
VIRGIL ABLOH SIGNS LETTER SUPPORTING GHANA'S LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
Abloh was one of 67 public figures who signed an open letter to Ghanaian policymakers calling for equal rights among the LGBTQ+ community. The letter followed the closure of an LGBTQ+ center in Ghana, where homosexuality is punishable by law. Other signatories of the letter included actor Idris Elba, model Naomi Campbell and actress Michaela Coel.
"To our Ghanaian LGBTQIA+ family, we see you and we hear you. We are in awe of your strength, your bravery and your audacity to be true to who you are even when it is dangerous to do so. You are loved, you are important and you deserve a safe place to gather your shared experience," the letter read.
VIRGIL ABLOH SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON GHANA’S KUMERICA SCENE IN APPLE MUSIC INTERVIEW
Abloh sat down with Ghanaian artist Kwaku DMC for an episode of Televised Radio, a hit show on Apple Music. The conversation included talks of internationally recognized artists, Dr Vades and Vic Mensa as well as other rappers behind the Kumerica scene, including Yaw Tog, O’Kenneth, Jay Bahd, Reggie and City Boy.
VIRGIL ABLOH, LOUIS VUITTON PLEDGES $380,000 TO UNICEF EDUCATION PROGRAMS IN GHANA
Abloh’s ongoing pledge to mentor Ghanaian youth included expanding his leverage in the fashion world to partner with UNICEF. He designed a Silver Lockit bracelet with proceeds going towards the UN’s agency’s emergency programs to raise awareness and funds for children in need.
“Virgil Abloh, a Ghanaian diaspora member, makes it a personal commitment to contribute to help accelerate results for children and young people in Ghana,” said Louis Vuitton in a statement to WWD.
To Virgil Abloh: it is clear you were connected to your Ghanaian heritage through your support of the country’s culture, music and social issues. We promise to uphold your legacy to the highest regard, and thank you for showing us how far we can go if we follow our passions.
Watch this intimate interview of Abloh and Naomi Campbell for British Vogue on what his appointment at Louis Vuitton meant for the next generation of fashion innovators.