I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, one of these shrinking Midwestern towns that you read about in the hallowed pages of The New York Times. Rockford was an interesting place to grow up. It's always been ranked as one of the most dangerous, least well educated, and most obese cities in the country. Growing up, my dad, a local physician, had to wear slacks and a tie when he wasn't working in the hospital units and this often involved going to get his clothes tailored. There was only one tailor that he trusted to work on his clothes: Eunice Abloh (Mrs. Abloh to me).
I remember going to the Abloh's house and wandering around while Mrs. Abloh listened to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and worked her magic to make sure my dad's clothes actually fit him. I remember meeting her son, Virgil, a couple of times and despite our limited number of interactions, the one thing that I remember most was his interest in skateboarding. In fact, after seeing Virgil's skateboard, I asked for one for my birthday and promptly broke my wrist riding it down the [very steep] driveway.
Fast forward to 2018. Leading up to the World Cup, I saw photos of this amazingly cool Dutch/Croatia-inspired Off-White jersey that some designer had made. A couple weeks later, my sister sent me an article about the designer, Virgil Abloh, who gifted some of these jerseys to the boys and girls soccer team at Boylan Catholic High School with a message “Once a Titan, always a Titan.” This was the first time that I realized the connection between Virgil Abloh — the world-famous designer — and Mrs. Abloh the seamstress who lived off Perryville about a mile from where I grew up.
I’d always hoped to cross paths with Virgil. I was curious what he thought about Rockford and how that experience shaped him as an artist. I kept a mental list of questions...How did his mom’s work as a seamstress influence him? What did he think about growing up in Rockford? What was high school like for him? Being the only Indian at Boylan, I wondered what was it like being the only Ghanian?
Looking at his life, it really felt like Vigril had accomplished so much but was just getting started. Pyrex Vision. Off-White. Louis Vuitton. Art. Music. Heck, Fred Ehrsam posted a thread where he mentions that Virgil wanted to create a DAO.
My heart goes out to the entire Abloh family. Virgil, we may have only crossed paths 20 years ago in a basement in Rockford, but you will be missed.