Virgil: Getty images
Virgil: Getty images

It was a "kid in a candy store" moment for Billie Essco when he found himself in a cavernous space beneath the Louvre Museum in January last year, backstage before a show for fashion designer Virgil Abloh's luxury streetwear label Off-White.

Essco, a 31-year-old Black American artist, musician and clothing designer from Buffalo, New York had made a last minute decision to join his friend, rapper Westside Gunn, on a trip to Paris with hopes of sneaking into a show during Fashion Week.

He never would have dreamt of hanging out with Abloh, who besides being the founder of Off-White, was the menswear designer for Louis Vuitton - the world's biggest luxury brand owned by French giant LVMH (LVMH.PA).

"I've been channelling this man, his energy and his designs for the last five years and now I'm here seeing things that the world hasn't seen yet," said Essco, also known as Uptown Chase.

"Fashion was such a closed-knit, niche thing, it was a kind of insider, 'if you know, you know' -- I believe that Virgil opened it up for people like me to come in, into this community."

Abloh, fashion's highest profile Black designer, died on Sunday at just 41 after a private battle with a rare form of cancer. As recently as July he had been promoted to work across LVMH's 75 brands.