As the fashion world continues to process the unexpected death of acclaimed designer Virgil Abloh on Sunday, there might not seem to be much to celebrate. Nevertheless, just as Abloh’s final collection takes the runway tonight in Miami (per his final wishes), on Monday night, many of his colleagues, friends and admirers stepped out for the 2021 British Fashion Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where tributes were paid to the designer throughout the evening.
“Everyone here is going to be talking about Virgil, everyone here has been impacted by his brilliance,” said Gabrielle Union on the BFAs red carpet, according to CNN.
“Genius, disruptor ... (he) will be missed tremendously by all,” said designer Tommy Hilfiger of the Ghanaian-American designer, adding: “He inspired designers as well as the public.”
The ceremony, hosted this year by Billy Porter, was dedicated to Abloh by Idris Elba. Black and white portraits of of the designer were projected onscreen as Elba, wearing an LV-emblazoned varsity jacket from one of Abloh’s collections, spoke of his departed friend, who died after a private two-year battle with a rare heart cancer.
“His wife lost a husband, his children lost a father, his family lost a son,” said Elba (h/t Harper’s Bazaar UK). “The fashion industry lost an icon and the world lost a legend.”
He also recited Maya Angelou’s poem When Great Trees Fall in tribute to the 41-year-old Abloh, saying in closing: “anyone who knew Virgil would know that he would want us to celebrate tonight in honor of his life.”
Abloh was also lauded for his innovation among 15 creators and labels recognized as leaders of change for their philanthropy, creativity, and environmental efforts. His groundbreaking presence as a Black designer at the top of his field was also reflected in several of the night’s other honorees, including: Isabella Blow Award winner Ib Kamara (editor-in-chief of Dazed magazine); Leaders of Change, Environment winner, Priya Ahluwalia (designer, Ahluwalia); and Leaders of Change, People honorees Edward Enninful (editor-in-chief of British Vogue) and designers Samuel Ross (A-Cold-Wall*) and Telfar Clemens (Telfar). A full list of the evening’s honorees is available here.
Then, of course, there was the fashion. From Gabrielle Union’s citron Valentino Couture to Jourdan Dunn in strapless scarlet Andrea Brocca, to host Porter’s dancer-flanked red carpet routine in houndstooth-patterned Richard Quinn, fashion statements were in abundance. As always, we have a sampling of the Black excellence (in no particular order) in our slideshow below; you can see more here.