Grammy Awards criticised for describing Virgil Abloh as ‘hip-hop fashion designer’

Virgil Abloh founded Off-White in Milan in 2012 (Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine I)

Virgil Abloh founded Off-White in Milan in 2012 (Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine I)

The Recording Academy is facing criticism after a tribute to Virgil Abloh at the 64thGrammy Awards described the late artistic director of Louis Vuitton and Off-White founder as a “hip-hop fashion designer”.

The talented designer passed away in November aged 41 following a “private battle” with an aggressive form of cancer for more than two years, his family said in a statement at the time.

Abloh’s career spanned almost two decades. After getting his start in 2002, when Kanye West hired him as his creative director, he went on to intern at Fendi in 2009 before founding Off-White in Milan in 2012.

The creative also had a hand in several iconic album cover designs, such as West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, A$AP Rocky’s Long.Live.A$AP and Watch the Throne (a joint album between West and Jay-Z).

Abloh previously received a Grammy nomination in 2011 for his work on the Watch the Throne cover art, which he created in collaboration with Riccardo Tisci.

Alongside his work as a designer, Abloh also worked as a DJ. In 2018, he released an EP with electro-house producer Boys Noize, and also worked on directing music videos for artists including Quavo, Pop Smoke and A$AP Rocky.

As Abloh’s skills transcended many industries, fans were left shocked when the Grammy awards’ “In Memoriam” segment described him as a “hip-hop fashion designer”, with many noting that the label did Abloh’s wide-spanning career a disservice.

“The list of accomplishments Virgil had in fashion, art, architecture, music, etc. is longer than most people at the Grammy’s combined,” one person wrote.

“It’s crazy to me that they thought it was a good idea to diminish his life’s work to being a ‘hip-hop fashion designer’!”

Another person said: “Virgil Abloh was the damn artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and founded a full-on fashion house in Milan.

“I get them trying to tie him to music in some way to ‘explain’ the inclusion to clueless people. But respect is more important than catering to a clueless person.”

Others described the label as racially biased. “A black man who was a director of Louis Vuitton, multiple fashion week shows, designer for Nike, IKEA and his own brands was just a ‘hip hop fashion designer’,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another said: “Very disrespectful for the Grammys to call Virgil Abloh a ‘hip hop fashion designer’…the micro aggressive racism we see in fashion and entertainment today still baffles me.”

The Independent has contacted the Recording Academy for comment.