Among the many faces we’ve seen in fashion, only one stands out among the rest. Virgil Abloh, the face of streetwear and an arbiter of design, has changed the scope of how we view and experience the art of self-expression through clothing. Starting as an intern at Fendi in 2009, Abloh began the trajectory of his career alongside Kanye West, which later led him to create one of the most-shopped empires in the fashion industry: Off-White.
Following his death last year, Abloh’s influence has transcended beyond fashion. He left a leading precedent for other aspiring Black artists, creatives and designers to follow their passions on their own terms, as well as passing down the mantle for creatives to take up much-needed space. In honor of Virgil’s work and commitment to further diversify a rather exclusive industry, writer, curator and the #BlackVisionaries creative chair Antwaun Sargent partnered with Instagram and the Brooklyn Museum coinciding with the museum’s opening of the Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” exhibition to help budding Black professionals further their careers within the creative industry.
“Virgil wanted to make sure that art and commerce were not separated,” Sargent said. “He really wanted people to be a part of the larger vision of fashion and artform,” he continues. “For me, and hopefully, for you, this is really about highlighting the people that are doing the work to further progress our communities. This exhibition and the work we’re doing with Instagram really highlights and expands upon this notion.”
Sargent’s partnership would provide $650,000 in grants to Black visionaries around the country. Among the recipients include designers, artists and small business owners who are changing the scope of design through their respective industries. The program honored five Black designers last year and will award 10 #BlackVisionaries grants this year.
In addition to the five $100,000 Visionary Small Business Grants that will be provided, and with the support of Meta Open Arts, #BlackVisionaries is also awarding five $30,000 Emerging Visionary Grants to artists and designers who tell stories in experimental ways. “Most folks who don’t have traditional pathways into spaces like the arts and design just need opportunity,” Sargent said. “A grant like this could mean a world of opportunity.”
We got a chance to sit down with Sargent to discuss the trajectory of Abloh’s career, the work he’s doing with Instagram and the Brooklyn Museum, and his own journey to success.