A Tribute to Virgil Abloh (and my dad)

A Tribute to Virgil Abloh (and my dad)

I know this is a sensitive subject - but after reading about the passing of Virgil today, I had a rush of things come to mind.  I’ve admired Virgil’s work for a long time.  I love that he always seemed to be himself, had a crazy work ethic, wasn’t afraid to break the mold and had the confidence to put out even the simplest of designs.  Creatives have the tendency to second-guess their work a lot because it’s so subjective and often personal.  There have been so many times that I’ve felt that no one else would relate to something we’re putting out and have talked myself out of letting it see the light of day.  Watching fashion designers at the highest levels has helped me overcome some of those fears. 

From his Instagram account:

“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture."

This made me appreciate him even more, and directly relates to how my dad handled similar news.

My dad was the hardest working person I’ve ever known.  He worked a full-time job for 42 years and also ran a small business (a side hustle that did $500k in revenue, no big deal).  He was diagnosed with ocular melanoma (another rare and very aggressive cancer) in 2017.  He continued working every day at the same pace as always and decided to forego the treatments, which shocked the doctors.   The procedures were never effective for patients with his diagnosis, but when he asked the doctors how many other people go through with it, they said “everyone does”.  The Friday before he passed his coworker tried to get him to leave early, he said “if you don’t get out of here, I’m going to carry you out”.

A close mentor of mine said, “Jared, your dad has taught you the right way to live, now let him teach you the right way to die”.  That was obviously hard for me to take in, but it became something that I’ve held onto.  

Our family wasn’t aware how bad things were getting because he hid it so well.  We booked our Christmas flight to arrive at my parent’s house on Christmas Day.  My brother-in-law called me concerned on the 22nd of December.  He said “I was just working with your dad and he sat down several times”.  For anyone else that wouldn’t be weird but I knew right away I needed to get home fast.  We were able to get the last 6 tickets on a flight out of Las Vegas… we booked it only 5 hours before take off while we were working at our store in LA.  We barely made the flight (we called ahead and they actually waited for us). 

We had the most incredible time with him the next few days.  He died sitting up on his couch, with his family around him, late at night the day after Christmas.

I know it’s kind of crazy to relate these stories, but I just felt like sharing (especially after all the responses I received from my last email about “Shop Small Saturday”).  Maybe all these stories will come out eventually in more manageable, bite-sized chunks.

I was already doodling this when I got sidetracked and read the story of Virgil’s death. My thoughts circling around the design were “fractured mind” and “bright ideas”, but hearing the news shifted my approach.  It quickly morphed into a tribute to him, and everyone else that fights through trying times in secret. If you’re familiar with his work you’ll recognize the use of quotation marks in the design.

We’ve all heard the “if you only have x many days to live” question a lot of times, and have considered what we would do differently.  Most likely it would be what we’re already doing, just with more fervor and intentionality. 

The crazy thing is, we’re all terminal, just some of us get a heads-up.


Fractured Ideas Collection

Black Heavyweight T-shirt with sad skeleton printed in water based inks on back of shirt Black raw edge pullover sweater with sad skeleton printed on right chest with grey water based inks

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We’re so lucky if we’ve had someone in our lives like your dad, who showed how simply putting one foot in front of the other could be a revolutionary act of strength and kindness. Now you, I think in much the same way. Thank you for sharing this story… I felt shivers of memory of my parents in it, too. ❤️

Jean Breheney

This was really moving. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be thinking about the final line for awhile and I did not expect that when opening an email from a clothing retailer :)

Jane S.

Thanks for sharing this and the many other blogs/stories/thoughts between you and Tina! You guys encourage many of us to push through and keep looking forward. Between your story about “shop small Saturday” to this entry, I not only find myself wanting to continue to encourage you and your family to stay strong, but I find that I want to encourage myself (and many of my family members) to keep pushing forward. You are correct in “we’re all terminal”. I feel strongly it is how you handle it that makes you stronger (or weaker as well). To everyone, you are loved, you are made for a purpose, and you all encourage someone (rather you know it or not). Looking forward to hopefully getting my hands on this new design! Love you guys and stay strong!!

Clint Knight

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