Fashion Scholarship Fund Talks Amplifying Support for Diverse Talent in the Fashion Industry at FN Summit

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The Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) is continuing its mission to support and scale its diverse talent development in the fashion industry.

On Tuesday in New York, executive director Peter Arnold took the FN Summit stage with FSF recipient and emerging designer Alexander Britto to talk mentorship and the challenges of breaking into the business.

“The challenge of the industry is to make sure that once one of our scholars, or any creative, especially an underrepresented creative, gets to a company that when he or she looks around, he or she sees people that that look like them. And I think that’s work that we have to do — it is to create safe spaces in the industry where this new cadre of talent, that is increasingly diverse, can arrive and thrive and succeed,” said Arnold.

For Britto, who graduated from VCUarts in 2023 with a BFA in Fashion Design and a minor in Craft & Material Studies, mentorship has been key to his success.

“I did FSF every year that I was eligible, and just treated it like a job and it really built me a footwear portfolio and got me connected in the industry and sort of got things rolling,” he said. Britto is also an alumni of the 2023 New Balance x Pensole Lewis College Masterclass.

“In that program, I learned what it was actually like work in the design industry as opposed to school. So they’re really putting you through the paces, really hitting you with hard deadlines, hitting you over the head with unexpected things happening. So I just started two weeks ago at Coach, and I feel like during that month, Pensole really prepared me for what it’s actually like to work and design,” Britto added.

He said that with FSF, he has not only been able to receive financial help, but he was able to find mentors who have connected him to their networks and have made introductions to help further his career. “Having a little bit of support via text from a mentor can can be huge,” he said.

Arnold agreed, noting, “The funding that a scholar receives is very important. But I really do think and that having a good mentor can make all the difference in the world. Every year we have 130 to 150 super talented, creative students who are looking for guidance and support.”

The Fashion Scholarship Fund awards over $1.4 million each year in scholarships and it is increasing its breadth and reach of who they find and how they support them. Now, 90 scholarships are worth $10,000 or more, with 60% of recipients being BIPOC.

“At a time when the industry is talking about looking for diverse talent and acknowledging that the industry is underrepresented — that’s a huge statistic that I find very powerful,” Arnold said. “It’s a long game and you’re not going to see a change in the boardroom or the C suite unless you start now.”

The support helps students from the FSF’s network of 74 colleges and universities in all sectors of the industry, including design, merchandising, marketing, and business strategy. A big driver in FSF’s recent success has been the late Virgil Abloh.

In 2020, Virgil Abloh partnered with the FSF to establish the Virgil Abloh™ “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships, mentorship, and career opportunities for talented students who are traditionally underrepresented in the fashion industry. Since his passing, the organization has generated $20 million from an auction of his Louis Vuitton and Nike Air Force 1 by Virgil Abloh, which has provided an opportunity to effect change sooner.

Britto who is just beginning his career said he aspires to be a designer like Abloh, adding, “Virgil is a really inspiring figure for just how he was able to shift into a lot different genres of creating products and storytelling.”

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