RCA launch Virgil Abloh scholarship for Black British students

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A scholarship for underrepresented communities in creative and design industries honouring the fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who died last year, has been launched by the Royal College of Art (RCA).

The RCA Virgil Abloh Scholarship is to be offered annually to “an extraordinarily talented, but financially restricted, Black British student”.

Alboh, an acclaimed fashion designer who died in November 2021 was the founder of Off-White alongside his role as artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear. He held a close relationship with the RCA having joined as a honorary visiting professor in 2020.

The £35,000 scholarship has been established with funding from an anonymous donor in the USA. It will cover the full tuition fees of any postgraduate programme in the School of Design, including fashion, textiles and design products. Typical tuition fees for these programmes range from £14,175 to £33,200. The scholarship also includes industry experience and networking opportunities.

Abloh was a fierce advocate for equality in education and learning. In 2020 he announced that with the support of partners, including the retail platform Farfetch and Louis Vuitton, he had committed over $1m to support scholarships and career opportunities for Black students in the USA through the Virgil Abloh™️ “Post-Modern” scholarship fund.

“Systemic change starts at the grassroots level, from the collective efforts of people taking action and lifting up their own communities. I’m committed to helping ensure that this social revolution is not just a moment but a movement – and I am holding myself to task,” he wrote in an online post.

Born in Illinois, Chicago to Ghanian immigrant parents, Abloh studied civil engineering followed by a master’s in architecture. It was while at university that he began designing T-shirts.

In 2009 he interned at Fendi alongside Kanye West, the rapper known as Ye.

Abloh’s own label Off-White garnered a cult following and LVMH acquired a majority stake in it in 2021.

In a fashion world ruled by tradition, Abloh took an unorthodox approach. Quotation marks became his signature trademark. He created reusable water bottles with Evian, furniture with Ikea, DJ’d around the world and in 2018 made history as the first Black designer at Louis Vuitton.

In a post to announce his death in November 2021, his family revealed he had privately been battling a rare aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma for more than two years.

Speaking about the scholarship, Shannon Abloh, the late designer’s wife, said: “Over the years, the RCA and Virgil formed a beautiful relationship based on a shared appreciation of collaboration, creative vision, and of course, education. We know that the RCA Virgil Abloh scholarship will break down financial barriers to fulfilling creative potential and empower talented young individuals to dream even bigger.”

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