I want to leave a legacy is a common trope in our answers to the question: what’s your goal in life? In reality, the ambition to be remembered for something good is a cultural premium that is both, enviable and elusive. How do we then find an infallible road to creating a lasting legacy?
Virgil Abloh had this figured out.
Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants who became fashion’s highest profile Black designer and the creative force behind Louis Vuitton‘s menswear collections, died on Sunday at age 41, following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.
In his honor, entertainment’s biggest names — from Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner to Drake and K-pop stars BTS — shared tributes to memorialize the memory of Abloh’s creative talent, artistic vision and unfailing friendship. Abloh’s contributions, ranging from his work at Louis Vuitton to his executive direction at Off-White, reformed the fashion world in ways more than one.
But his contributions to art and design ought not to be the only reason for his iconization. Abloh’s success in creating innovative programs to empower young people of color is what cements his place as a champion for inclusive philanthropy.
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“Systemic change starts at the grassroots level, from the collective efforts of people taking action and lifting up their own communities,” he said, emphasizing his commitment to the ongoing progress in uplifting Black voices and showcasing Black talent and achievement.
In July 2020, Virgil Abloh announced the creation of the “Virgil Abloh Post-Modern Scholarship Fund”, raising $1 million to support the next generation of Black fashion industry leaders. Since then, twenty “Post-Modern” scholars received $7,500 in college scholarship awards through the Fund, the Fund’s website said.
The mission of the Fund, in the creator’s own words, is to foster equity and inclusion within the fashion industry by providing scholarships to students of academic promise of Black, African-American, or African descent.
Interestingly, the scholarship focuses on more than just the dollar amount; it constructs a channel to access coveted work experience and mentorship opportunities across top companies in the fashion ecosystem. Members of the inaugural 2021 class of “Post-Modern” scholars held design, merchandising, and marketing internships at prominent companies including Brandon Maxwell, Estée Lauder, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Tommy Hilfiger, and Rimowa. Scholars were also paired with creative and marketing mentors who are leaders at Baccarat, Bandier, Milk Makeup, New Guards Group, Nike, Off-White, and others.
“At a time when many have sought to advance equity and inclusion in the fashion industry, Virgil made a direct and immeasurable impact,” Peter Arnold, Executive Director of the Fashion Scholarship Fund said in a statement following Abloh’s death. “The [next] generation of future Scholars the Fashion Scholarship Fund will support, are our opportunity to carry out the personal legacy Virgil designed,” he added.
This personal legacy of inclusive innovation, creative empowerment and economic opportunity is what will define Abloh’s lasting influence across industries. His sartorial excellence will be remembered, yes, but it is his undying quest for philanthropic impact that will keep his spirit alive.