British actor Idris Elba began the night by remembering Abloh. He spoke of the designer’s talent and influence saying that “the fashion industry lost an icon and the world lost a legend”. He also read the poem When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou. Throughout the entire tribute, a portrait of Virgil Abloh was shown behind Elba and he ended his tribute by saying that “anyone who knew Virgil would know that we would want to celebrate tonight in honour of his life,” dedicating the awards ceremony to the designer.
The British Fashion Council also named Virgil Abloh one of 15 “leaders of change” at the awards, which were determined weeks before the presentation and honour those who have “created positive change within the fashion industry in the past year.”
Spontaneous tributes to Abloh continued throughout the whole event. Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council and the chair, Stephanie Phair, admired him as “a creative force of change, who throughout his career focused on inclusivity and philanthropy across fashion, art, music, design and architecture, making him one of the most influential designers of his generation”.
Tommy Hilfiger remembered Abloh as a “Genius, disruptor” who “inspired designers as well as the public” and asserted that he “will be missed tremendously by all”.
Tan France, fashion designer and TV personality, described Abloh as “incredible and a visionary… (who) has done the most beautiful work.”
Host for the night, Billy Porter said “Virgil was an inspiration, and it is our responsibility to honour and carry forward every loving moment he brought to this industry.”
Ibrahim Kamara also used his moment to express his appreciation to Abloh, having worked with him at Louis Vuitton. “I would like to encourage each and every person to petition this government to invest in the youth, the arts, in humanity. And invest in immigrants,” he said.
Edward Enninful from Vogue announced that “the shock of his passing is as fresh as it is devastating. As a leader of change, the impact of his work cannot be overstated.”
From the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, Enninful then read from the manifesto that Abloh had prepared for his Louis Vuitton menswear show last summer:
“As a Black man in a French luxury house, I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example, and unlock the door for future generations. I believe in making my mark with poise, style, and grace.”
Abloh, was the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, who became fashion’s highest-profile Black designer.
Movingly, Virgil had recorded a message himself which was screened during interviews for the Creativity Award category.
“Part of my practice within design, fashion, art, and culture,” he explained, “is to keep these doors open for future generations, that I’ve been able to open for myself.”
The impact of his passing is felt everywhere.
SEE MORE: THE LEGACY OF VIRGIL ABLOH