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RCA’s Virgil Abloh Scholarship fights underrepresentation in the arts

The Royal College of Art has announced a new scholarship honouring the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh – in an effort to support underrepresented communities. 

A new scheme by the Royal College of Art will see one ‘extraordinarily talented, but financially restricted, Black British student’ offered an annual scholarship to study at the prestigious arts institution.

The Virgil Abloh scholarship, named after the late fashion designer, will provide a single student £35,000 of funding each year. The RCA has shared that the new scheme will provide underrepresented communities with the support they need to access creative industries, and ‘fulfil their creative potential’.

Donated anonymously from an individual in the US, the scholarship will cover all tuition fees of a postgraduate course at the RCA’s School of Design, which includes fashion, textiles, and design programmes. The fees will also cover a partial maintenance loan.

Alongside financial support, the chosen student will receive mentorship opportunities and support from those already working in the fashion industry, including designer Samuel Ross who founded streetwear brand A-COLD-WALL*.

The decision to name the scholarship after Virgil Abloh – who passed away last year at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer – is fitting for a programme targeting underrepresentation in the arts.

Born in Chicago to Ghanian immigrant parents, Abloh was the first Black designer at the helm of Louis Vuitton menswear, after taking over as artistic director in 2018. He was also CEO of wildly successful streetwear brand Off-White, which he founded in 2013.

After being named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2018, Abloh’s designs were described as ‘transformative’ in their capacity to bridge streetwear and luxury clothing in a way not seen before.

Besides his trailblazing success as a Black creative in the predominantly white luxury market, Abloh was also an honorary visiting professor at the RCA and held a close relationship with the institution.

His death in 2021 came as a surprise to many, after it was revealed the designer had battled a rare form of aggressive cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma, for over two years.

By the time of his death, Abloh’s brand Off-White had gained a cult following, and his unexpected collaborations with brands like Evian and IKEA had cemented his status legendary innovator within the fashion industry.

Abloh’s wife, Shannon, has shared how the RCA scholarship will give other Black creatives a chance at her husband’s success. ‘Over the years, the RCA and Virgil formed a beautiful relationship based on a shared appreciation of collaboration, creative vision, and of course, education’ she said.

‘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’.

Sir Jony Ive, RCA Chancellor, echoes Shannon’s hopes for the programme.

‘Virgil’s creativity and generosity will continue to have an impact at the RCA through this remarkable scholarship. I continue to be inspired by Virgil and believe that his curiosity and entrepreneurialism will live on, inspiring generations of innovators to come’.


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