CFDA Celebrates 25th Year of Scholarship Program

More than $500,000 in scholarship awards are being doled out this year.

As more companies try to entice future generations and empower them with the knowledge to pursue careers in fashion, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has raised the bar with its 2021 CFDA Scholar Award recipients.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the CFDA Scholarship Program, the organization is handing out a record $500,000 in scholarships to 19 fashion students.

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More than 320 applicants from 22 American fashion schools and graduate programs were vying for this year’s scholarships.

Established in 1986 by CFDA member Monika Tilley, the CFDA Scholarship Program awarded $3,000 scholarships to 10 students, based on merit at its first edition.

It has helped such student-turned-designers as Peter Som, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, and J. Crew alum Chris Benz. The CFDA has awarded more than $2.2 million in scholarships since the program began.

From 2015 through 2020, 76 percent of the scholarships were awarded to women and 72 percent were presented to students with ethnic or diverse backgrounds, according to the CFDA.

CFDA members Patricia Underwood and Jeffrey Banks made donations to this year’s scholarship fund in memory of Tilley, an activewear pioneer and advocate for young talent, who died in February at the age of 86.

Acknowledging how the CFDA scholarships have helped many young designers “realize their dreams in the fashion industry,” CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb said in a statement: “We launch into the next 25 years with a strong scholarship program that addresses the specific areas required for American fashion to have a leading role in the global fashion landscape.”

The $50,000 Geoffrey Beene Design Masters Scholar award is going to Padina Bondar-Gibbs of Parsons School of Design. Iyomi Ho Ken from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will receive $50,000 as part of the CFDA COVID-19 Relief Fund, a $100,000 discretionary fund. Catie Marron helped to make that possible with an individual donation of $25,000.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association donated proceeds to the CFDA Scholarship Fund, as did other partners.

There are multiple $25,000 scholars this year, including Nayon Kim of Parsons School of Design, who is receiving the CFDA Design Scholar Award, and Rebecca Flood of Parsons School of Design, who is the winner of the CFDA Suntchi Image-Maker Award.

There were two additions to this year’s awards. The CFDA and the Coach Foundation joined forces to launch the Coach Dream It Real x CFDA Design Scholarship that is geared for underrepresented students with financial needs.

Six students will each receive $25,000 scholarships. The honor is geared toward and will be awarded to students who are looking to use their designs to advocate, advance, and transform fashion and whose portfolios reflect that.

Coach creative director Stuart Vevers said in a statement: “I know firsthand how transformative an education can be in helping young designers nurture their voice and find community.”

In addition, the CFDA and the Swarovski Foundation are debuting the Swarovski Foundation Re: Generation Innovation Scholar Award to encourage innovative design thinking within sustainable systems. Bailey Adams of the Fashion Institute of Technology is the first recipient of the $30,000 award.

Acknowledging the new three-year partnership with the CFDA, the foundation’s chairperson Nadja Swarovski said the award is part “of our mission to foster creativity and drive progress toward the [U.N.’s] 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

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