On Monday night, generations of the fashion industry came together to celebrate the Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) and its newest class of emerging talent.
Dubbed FSF Live, the event honored the (FSF)'s Class of 2022, with the four Chairman's Award finalists — Eliezer Eisenman (Drexel University), Naecia Dixon (Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta), Emily Becker (Iowa State University) and Ifechi Ilozor (Brown University) — giving brief presentations to the audience, which included industry executives, editors, journalists, stylists, designers and program alumni. The prize ultimately went to Dixon, a 2022 Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholar.
The late designer established the Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholarship Fund two years ago to support and uplift Black students wanting to work in fashion. And on Monday, many who took the FSF Live stage paid tribute late Off-White founder and Louis Vuitton men's creative director (and FSF Board Member), who passed away in November, recognizing his impact beyond the runway.
Dixon's presentation was introduced by Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears and Supreme, who spoke about how the young designer fit into the "hero's journey" narrative he and Abloh often talked about. Dixon then explained how coming across Abloh's work ultimately shaped her as a creative. Neiman Marcus Group CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck, an FSF Live honoree, said: "I remember how incredibly taken I was by his presence and his passion. Virgil's legacy will live on forever, and it's a privilege to honor him tonight alongside the many young talents who are the future of this industry."
Brown Girl Hands founder Hannah Harris, a 2021 Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholar, told the audience about the excitement around the designer's "Figures of Speech" exhibit coming to Atlanta and about meeting him for the first time over Zoom, when he went on to "defend my idea in front of a room full of industry colleagues during the judges' Q&A at the finals competition — he knew very little about me at the time, but supported my work nonetheless because he saw something in me. That's the kind of person he was, and he firmly believed in building up the next generation of talent."
Harris was there to introduce Shannon Abloh, making her first public remarks since her husband's passing. In her speech, she emphasized how important the Virgil Abloh "Post-Modern" Scholarship was to her longtime partner, how it inspired him and how it fit into his larger purpose of building up Black creatives.
You can read her full remarks below.
"Good evening, everyone. Thank you to the Fashion Scholarship Fund and to all of you for welcoming me tonight. I'm honored to accept this award on behalf of my husband. Over 23 years as Virgil's partner, I witnessed his tireless work ethic and passion for ideas to drive him with hundreds if not thousands of projects. Every milestones he achieved, few meant more to him than establishing the Virgil Abloh 'Post-Modern' Scholarship Fund. It brought him so much joy to work with all of you, the incredible 'Post-Modern' students. After every session, he felt so invigorated by your ideas and creativity.
One of the things I always admired about Virgil was his deep sense of compassion and care for others. He believed that being a leader meant serving others in need. And he felt a tremendous sense of purpose in opening doors for others. He would say, 'The work isn’t simply about opening the doors, it's about laying the groundwork to ensure these doors remain open permanently for others to walk through.' When he would say, 'Everything I do is for the seventeen-year-old version of myself,' he of course wasn’t talking about himself. He was talking about every young person who has ever dreamed of becoming something — an artist, a fashion designer, an architect or an engineer but felt discouraged because they couldn't see themselves represented in these industries.
Virgil was of course deeply honored to become the first African American to lead a European fashion house, but he believed his real work was using his position to ensure that many more Black designers, creatives and executives could have access to the opportunities he had in the fashion industry. He believed his real work was championing others, helping them find opportunities and rooting for their success. He did this every single day consistently through his career in big and small ways, in public and private. Sometimes it was as simple as giving a young kid his personal cell phone number and telling them, 'If you have questions or need advice, I'm a text message away.' Other times it was more formal, like when he leveraged his partnership with Nike to found the first-of-its-kind studio composed entirely of Black creatives that would lead all of his creative projects with Nike.
Founding the 'Post-Modern' Scholarship Fund represented a major milestone for Virgil and his work. His dream is to establish an institution that would help to make fashion a more equal, more inclusive place. It meant the world to him to be able to provide scholarships for Black students because he believed deeply in the power of education. When he went to architecture school to study a curriculum devised by one of his heroes, the architect Mies van der Rohe, it truly changed his life, opening his eyes to the kind of artist and designer he wanted to become. And he knew firsthand how important mentors were along his journey, how important it was to meet key role models who believed in his promise, encouraging him to believe in himself as well. The 'Post-Modern' Scholarship Fund is intended to encompass all of these ideas and more, and I'm so grateful to the Fashion Scholarship Fund and to all of the Post-Modern students who are helping Virgil to achieve his dream. I simply don't have the words to describe how much you all meant to him.
I'm honored that we will continue to move forward in his spirit, building up the foundation that he established so that what he started may continue on for decades to come, and I will always be your partner to ensure his legacy lives on through this incredible program.
Finally, tonight, I want to congratulate all the four finalists on their journey, for the sacrifices they made, finding the time to pour their hearts and smarts into complicated, in-depth case studies that were so much more than detailed business plans. They're representative of the social and environmental concerns of ideology and innovation."