After a two-year battle against cardiac angiosarcoma for the rare cancer, Virgil Abloh passed away in November. A group of University of Wisconsin athletes wanted a way to honor Abloh’s contributions to Black culture.
Abloh was just 41 when he died. He was a 2003 UW graduate. fashion designerHe is the founder of Off-White, a high-end streetwear brand. He also was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and even redesigned the exterior of musician Drake’s private plane to mimic the cover art of Drake’s album, “Nothing Was The Same.”
Carter Higginbottom is a junior on The men’s basketball team, wAs one of the Badgers athletes, Abloh was also part of the group that included other Badgers athletes. Abloh had a significant influence on this group and they wanted to celebrate him for all that he did.
As part of UW’s celebration of Black History Month, the UW men’s and women’s basketball teams have been wearing special shooting shirts designed by Abloh.
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“It was really cool to see how the university responded,”Higginbottom stated. “How they were there for us. They understood what this guy did, not only for the Black community, but the world as a whole. It was really important that we honored what he did. Then when Black History Month came around to honor him in that way, and show what a big influence he is and what he means to the Black community.”
In partnership with the Abloh family, UW’s Black History Month shirt is a re-issue of Abloh’s design for UW’s 2015 “The Red Shirt” tradition — a shirt used to raise money by the Alumni Association to help provide financial assistance for current UW students.
The designFeatures the word “Wisconsin”In block letters, curved across the front with black “tape”Striking through the letters. The back of the shirt has the Off-White logo.
Originaly, there were three shirts when Abloh designed them in 2015. One with “Wisconsin”The front and back are covered with the UW patch. “Wisconsin”It was a bit hard to see the front, but it was almost as if the words were falling apart.
The re-issue is exclusive to the UW basketball teams as part of the athletic department’s Black History Month celebration. The original shirt was a short sleeve, but the team’s is a long sleeve. The shirts will not go on sale to the public, and they have no commercial component.
“We all understand what it means to wear a piece of Off-White clothing, especially for Black History Month,”Higginbottom said. “(My teammates) definitely saw all the history behind it and what it meant and they were definitely proud to wear it as well. We were all pretty hyped to get a pretty much one-of-a-kind Virgil Abloh shooting shirt.”
In order to help educate the student-athletes about Abloh’s legacy, UW invited two people who worked with the designerBoth basketball teams are available for talks.
Faisal Abdul’Allah (left), DJ Hines, and other members of the UW women’s and men’s basketball teams are seen as the Black History Month shirts get unveiled.
DJ Hines knew Abloh when they were both students at UW — Abloh was the DJ at a few of Hines’ parties. He was on campus helping the director of UW’s Alumni Association, Tracy Williams, with a different diversity and inclusion project when Williams expressed needing help marketing Abloh’s designBack in 2015.
Hines was brought on board to serve as a liaison between UW and Abloh’s Off-White team. He helped host Abloh’s visits to campus and facilitated events Abloh participated in.
Hines spoke about his role in the project with the Badgers basketball teams and shared his thoughts on Abloh.
“I expressed the profound impact that Virgil continues to have on culture, design, fashion, music,” Hines said. “His reach went well beyond clothing. I wanted to help them understand the impact that he had on a global level. The honor that they were presented with to be an installment of his legacy on the UW campus by wearing these T-shirts.”
The other speaker was Faisal Abdu’Allah, a professor in UW’s department of art history. Abloh met Abdu’Allah in 2015, when the professor offered a limited edition print version. designIt will have the Off-White label.
Abdu’Allah received approval from Abloh to mass produce the image. Abloh later visited the print shop. Abloh signed all copies and asked Abdu’Allah for help in printing.
“I explained to them that a lot of their basketball knowledge comes through artistic knowledge,”Abdu’Allah spoke of his meeting with the players. “Understanding space, elevation, movement, visual acuity, all of those things come from having an artistic disposition. I said to them, ‘The most important thing to learn about Virgil … was his investment in youth. His love for art and the next generation, because he always said, the next generation is on you.’”
Higginbottom said that it was interesting to learn more about the shirt’s manufacturing process and hear personal stories about Abloh.
“Before I ever put it on I was just looking at it, you know, it felt so special,”Higginbottom said. “I was really honored that his family allowed us to re-release it and make it our shooting shirt and wear it for Black History Month. It was really an honor just to look at it and then putting it on … it’s Off-White, you feel swaggy when you put it on.”
Photos: Wisconsin men’s basketball wins over Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall
Wisconsin’s Steven Crowl (22) takes on Indiana’s Trayce Jones-Davis (23), during the first half a NCAA college basketball game. It took place in Bloomington, Ind.
During the first half in NCAA college basketball, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind., Indiana’s Xavier Johnson (0) had his shot blocked by Chris Vogt (33)
During the first quarter of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday, February 15, 2022, in Bloomington (Ind.), Johnny Davis (1) passes to Indiana’s Xavier Johnson (0).
Brad Davison (34), Wisconsin head coach, speaks with Greg Gard, Tuesday, February 15, 2022, during the first period of an NCAA college basketball contest against Indiana in Bloomington.
Brad Davison (34) from Wisconsin takes to the basket against Trey Galloway (32) at the beginning of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington.
Trayce Johnson-Davis (23) from Indiana dunks during halftime of an NCAA college game against Wisconsin. This was Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at Bloomington, Ind.
Lorne Bowman II (11) from Wisconsin goes to the basket against Trey Galloway (32) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind.
Trayce Johnson-Davis (23) of Indiana and Steven Crowl (22) of Wisconsin fight for a loose basketball during the second quarter of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 74-69.
Mike Woodson, Indiana head coach, walks alongside Race Thompson (25) during the second period of an NCAA college basketball contest against Wisconsin. It took place in Bloomington (Ind.) on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. Wisconsin won 74-69.
In Indiana’s Khristian lander (4) is defended in the second half of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 74-69.
Indiana’s Trayce Johnson-Davis (23) takes to the basket against Wisconsin’s Steven Crowl (22) during halftime of an NCAA college basketball match, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 74-69.
Following an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 in Bloomington (Ind.), Johnny Davis (1) and Chucky Hisburn (23) celebrate. Wisconsin won 74-69.
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin, shoots during the second period of an NCAA college basketball match against Indiana, Tuesday February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind. Wisconsin won 74-69.
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