Virgil Abloh is giving $1 million to Black fashion students

“To make sure I’m not one of the few, but one of many…”

by Douglas Greenwood
10 July 2020, 11:27am

Image via Instagram

In 2020, we can shamefully still name all of the Black designers heading up artistic direction at French luxury fashion houses on one hand: Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, Rihanna at her LVMH venture Fenty, and, of course, Virgil Abloh. A polymathic artist and designer, Virgil's take on the codes of luxury fashion completely upended the industry five years ago, earning him a position as the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, alongside his Off-White venture too.

For a generation of young men who were once more interested in sports or video games, he’s made the idea of fashion alluring. To the young Black women who perhaps felt disillusioned at the lack of diversity within the most high flying circles of the fashion world, his presence -- and Rihanna’s, of course -- validated the idea that the scope of luxury heads was widening. In other realms of British and American fashion, the likes of Martine Rose, Mowalola, Pyer Moss and Telfar Clemens continue to prove that fashion relies on the trend-setting stylings of Black talent.

But the routes for Black designers into the fashion industry is far more knotty and complex than it is for white people, and that’s a fact. To counteract that, Virgil Abloh is using the privilege his success has afforded him to lift others up. Today, he announced a $1 million scholarship fund, titled the Virgil Abloh™ "POST-MODERN" scholarship fund, to cover tuition and resources on fashion courses for Black students, in collaboration with Fashion Scholarship Fund. What’s more, he’s also going to use his wealth of contacts to help lift up Black talent, and link them up with established figures in the industry to help them reach the positions they deserve faster.

“Anyone that’s ever been in a meeting with me, or a creative brainstorm, or even a random iMessage chat knows that I’m forever fighting for the '17-year-old-version' of myself,” Virgil said in an Instagram statement. “What that specifically means is... all I want is for any young Black kid to achieve a shorter path to their career goals, and if I can help with an open source approach to opening doors or messaging 'how-i-did-it' along the whole way, then I've done my real job, not my actual job.⁣ I'm putting money, my resources, and my rolodex where my mouth is.”

Virgil has managed to enlist the support of frequent collaborators Evian, Louis Vuitton, OFF-WHITE and Farfetch, and promises to assist over 100 students. ”The goal is to make sure I'm not one of the few, but one of many in my industry,” he says.

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