As the winners of the 2022 Black British Artist grant, designers Torisheju Dumi and Cameron Williams speak on their motivations, fascinations, and the importance of POC-only mentorship schemes

Samuel Ross was just 21 when an email from Virgil Abloh unexpectedly landed in his inbox. “I use Instagram like a phone book or LinkedIn,” the late designer told Ross in an interview with GQ in 2019. “And I recognised your genius just by scrolling through six images.” Back then, Ross was barely a graduate, living in Leicester and working at an industrial and product design company – but within 24 hours of that interaction, he was appointed as Abloh’s first design assistant and moved back to his native south London. Working together on Pyrex Vision and the launch of Off-White™, a co-sign from someone of Abloh’s stature managed to redirect Ross’ career overnight, paving the way for A-COLD-WALL* some years later. 

“He will be remembered for his ability to help others visualise their success, to imagine their ability to bring about change. He did this by being visible, relatable and accessible – dissolving all barriers of entry into a world that isn’t always welcoming and, in doing so, he created possibilities for those who might have been excluded before,” Ross wrote in an op-ed in the weeks after Abloh’s sudden passing. But this kind of mentorship would have felt obsolete without significant financial support – emotional investment is one thing, but economic change is just as, if not more, important for marginalised creatives to thrive. This means forging new infrastructures and networks, so that emerging talents can buttress their work against an inhospitable old guard. 

Flanked by the likes of Grace Wales Bonner and Dr Gus Casely Hayford, in 2020, Ross launched his inaugural Black British Artists Grant programme, which sought to redress the absence of POC designers, artists, photographers and architects from Britain’s vanguard. “We’ll always support reactive and rapid pain relief, though our objective is for long-term structured, consistent development within the arts, and for holistic Black British and wider POC experience to improve,” Ross explains. “It seems implausible to not embed a layer of structure and coordination to begin changing this reality, step by step, year on year.” The project’s third iteration came to a close this month, offering winners a lump sum of £2,500 alongside consultancy, resource donations, seed capital, and academic support.

Below, we get to know Samuel Ross’ latest batch of emergent designers; their motivations, fascinations, and wider thoughts on mentorship.


“My name is Torishéju, I’m from northwest London, and my route into fashion started with my foundation in art and design in Leicester. I’ve always loved the idea of bringing my imagination to life and back then I believed I could only express this through some sort of artistic storytelling – I’m a designer but I consider myself an artist. It’s the world-building around garments that really fascinates me: the layers upon layers of research, conversations and dreams. Compared to other forms of art, you’re able to see how people look and feel in your garments, and that’s what really attracts me: people. 

“I never start with a drawing. I start by creating something on the stand, with whatever I have in the studio. There’s not a specific person I design for, it’s more of just a feeling. I’m really inspired by everything and anything, but I’m obsessed with scaring myself. It really triggers something in me when creating. Sometimes it’s as simple as a scanned image gone wrong – that uncanny feeling when something’s out of place but you can’t work out why. I like to find the beauty within that fear. Entwining this feeling with my Catholic, Nigerian, Brazilian and British background – mixed with nature – brings to life some sort of elegant Frankenstein ‘thing’. 

“I think some people assume I should design a certain way because I am a Black woman – it’s not what they expect to see, so it takes them off-guard and I love that! Winning this grant means so much to me, I don’t think I can really explain it with words. You need a solid support network when starting off any creative venture. People in the industry who believe in you and your work. Sometimes you just need someone to light the way. Some of the money will go towards my Mami Wata campaign shoot – I’ve been planning this for a while with some bloody amazing people and I can’t wait for it all to finally come to fruition! I’m not quite sure about my final destination but I know it’s going to be bloody insane. Right now, I’m far more excited about the process – the process in anything tends to always be more thrilling.”


“My name is Cameron Williams and I’m a designer based in south London. I taught myself how to make clothes in my bedroom, from Tumblr fashion blogs and YouTube videos, without knowing much about the industry or the routes into education. I then studied for a BA in Fashion at the University of East London and an MA at Central Saint Martins. NUBA connects the strands between urban practicality and indigenous frugality, taking inspiration from everyday cultural expressions in the mundanity of London, and working with organisations that support indigenous sustainable textiles.

“I’m inspired by how expressions of culture stand in contrast with London’s inner-city surroundings. I take images of older women carrying groceries through a market almost every day, women I feel could be my aunties or sisters, trying to capture the elegance of people from different cultures. Despite what we commonly associate with elegance. My last collection was inspired by loss, while others have been about maternity and objects of sentimental value. My work’s often derived from my personal experiences and things I’ve been through. I try to digest and share those feelings into something other people can relate to. Clothing’s ability to define culture is unique. We have an innate understanding of clothing and what it says about modesty, sexuality, and utility. 

“I think my use of bark cloth is sometimes misunderstood; it’s often perceived as difficult to work with, difficult to source, or difficult to integrate into supply chains. I think when people hear ‘fabric sourced from Africa’, they imagine months of lead times and dysfunction. The relationships I’ve built in order to integrate this indigenous textile into my fabrication are proof of the opposite. In fact, the greatest compliment I’ve received is from the growers, who appreciate our investment into something both sustainable and supportive of a dying culture. I think working-class Black creatives are supported best by those that understand the barriers and limitations. Finances are a major obstacle, but not the only one. One’s culture and surroundings inspire and inhibit certain ways of thinking and how we perceive routes to success. Sharing our ideas, backgrounds, and opportunities can help to overcome those barriers.”