Royal College of Art announces Virgil Abloh scholarship for Black students

The Royal College of Art (RCA) has confirmed that a new annual scholarship honouring the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh has been established.

The prestigious arts institution will offer the RCA Virgil Abloh Scholarship annually to “an extraordinarily talented, but financially restricted, Black British student”.

Created with funding from an anonymous donor in the US, the grant will cover the full tuition fees of any postgraduate programme in the School of Design, including fashion, textiles and design products.

Fees for these programmes typically range from £14,000-£33,000, with the scholarship of £35,000 covering tuition fees and including maintenance support, in addition to networking opportunities and industry experience.

The fund is a continuation of Abloh’s commitment to equality in education.

In 2020, he announced that with the support of partners, including the retail platform Farfetch and Louis Vuitton, he had pledged over $1m to support scholarships and career opportunities for Black students in the USA through the Virgil Abloh™ï¸ “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.

Abloh, the creative director of luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton, had a close relationship with the RCA, joining as a honorary visiting professor in 2020.

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.”

The first African-American to head a French luxury fashion house, Abloh founded fashion label Off-White in 2013.

He ascended quickly, winning a British Fashion Award and collaborating with Warby Parker, Jimmy Choo, Ikea and Nike while opening shops in New York and Tokyo.

Abloh spoke often of wanting to inspire younger generations with his example, saying there was an “air of impossibility” to his journey. “I’m always ­trying to prove to my 17-year-old self that I can do creative things I thought weren’t possible,” he once said.

In a social media 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.