Pratt Institute in New York City is world famous for its programs in architecture, art and design. Now Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, is helping students of color afford tuition.
Tuesday night at Pratt’s annual Celebration of the Creative Spirit scholarship benefit, Gvasalia received the Creative Spirit Award. According to Highsnobiety, Gvasalia was unable to attend but left a wonderful gift in his absence. The mogul and his luxury brand made a commitment to the Black Alumni of Pratt (BAP) to offer full four-year scholarships to two students of African or Latinx descent.
BAP was created in 1990 to help its student and alumni members find academic and career opportunities, according to Black Enterprise. Since then the group has raised more than $5 million to support art, design and architecture students of color.
There’s an undeniable need for such assistance through programs helmed by BAP and others. Fashion in particular has been criticized for its blinding whiteness, be it in choice of beauty standards, models, designers, or even the clothing itself. For instance, Gucci was heavily criticized for balaclava sweaters perceived as racist.
Likewise, Prada faced controversy in December of last year over its monkey-faced keychains said to also be a minstrel design.
Both Prada and Gucci have since taken steps to remedy their mistakes; Prada created a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council including director Ava DuVernay, while Gucci has initiated a $5 million fund for scholarships and community-based programs after intense pressure from couturier Dapper Dan.
Still, there are many more examples of fashion houses that have refused to support needed change both on the runway and behind the scenes. For Balenciaga, this is a step in the right direction.
Correction: Sept. 17, 2019, 1:15 p.m. ET: This story has been edited to remove unattributed text and to add fuller sourcing.