Harlem Fashion Row helps push the industry beyond superficial efforts on diversity and bring out the need for responsibility.
The People’s Place program and the Black in Fashion Council, both created to help underrepresented communities succeed in the fashion industry, provided insight into how their organizations are entering the Harlem’s Fashion Row summit on Thursday .
Tommy Hilfiger, for his part, focuses on mentoring.
In a conversation with Hilfiger, Randy Cousin, senior vice president of product concepts at the company’s People’s Place Program, and Brandice Daniel, founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row, the founder and lead designer of Tommy Hilfiger said that he wanted to pay cheeky things.
“When I started my business in the 1970s I had an opportunity, but then there were a lot of people who didn’t open the door completely to me because I had never been to school. design. They would always open a crack, but never really open it. I felt I had some sort of stigma, ”Hilfiger said. “When I meet someone, I don’t care where the person went to school, what they studied, the color of their skin. [have], what type of financial context they come from. I don’t want to judge a person by anything other than how I felt about that person.
When he met Bruce and Glen Proctor, the two black designers behind BruceGlen, as well as Romeo Hunte, Hilfiger wanted to make sure their experience was not like his.
“I said, ‘I love this person, I think this person has a great quality, I think this person has drive, ambition and talent, and I will open the doors to him and do everything. what I can do to help launch their careers and be there for [them]Hilfiger said. “For Romeo, it was financial and advice, and for Glen and Bruce, it was always advice. And for many others, it’s a combination. It’s my philosophy and that’s how it all started.
The People’s Place program – named after Hilfiger’s first store in his hometown of Elmira, NY – was launched to create more opportunities and dedicate resources to underrepresented communities that are essential in the landscape of the fashion, Cousin said. The program has three pillars. The first is about partnerships and representation, the second is about accessing careers and using Hilfiger’s resources to create opportunities for people of color, and the third is industry leadership at all levels. .
What Daniel likes about the People’s Place program, she said, is that it’s a formal program with very clear goals and designated credits.
“We wanted to have an official program… We figured if we made it official and made it its own entity, we could treat it as a separate business case,” Hilfiger said. “One of the first things we wanted to do was find someone we trusted, experienced and professional, who has the vision and knows the brand, and Randy was sitting right in front of us… When Randy agreed to do, everything started to fall into place. He said he needed the money and the funding. We went to the powers that be and we said we couldn’t do this without money. Hilfiger said he wanted to make the announcement immediately and fund it with a substantial amount of money, pull the trigger and start moving. This happened in July.
For Hilfiger, doing diversity and inclusion work was about following up, creating an action plan and making sure it progresses.
“I think every brand should do it,” he said. “A lot of these big brands can afford to do it. They have money. They have people.
Brands and retailers, Hilfiger added, must exercise their power wisely.
“I have some power as a known brand in the industry, whether we’re a national brand, a global brand… we have power with retailers, we have power with consumers and some power with our own. employees, even manufacturers and supply chains, ”he said. “Use this power to help others because it doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have to write a check to introduce a talented youngster to a manufacturer, factory, or retail group. It’s a phone call, it’s a text, it’s an e-mail. I would like to inspire others with status in the industry to use this power to help others who would not normally be helped or who will be neglected.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Cut, and Sandrine Charles, communications consultant, co-founded the Black in Fashion Council last June with the aim of securing the advancement of blacks in the fashion industry.
So far, Peoples Wagner has said more than 100 brands have signed a pledge and three-year pledge for long-term change. Part of the board’s goal was to put companies on the right track with their diversity efforts.
Lots of people have lots of ideas and have had diversity breakdown sessions, she said, but there doesn’t seem to be a strategic plan behind them or any real goals, timelines and inclusiveness. integrated into the business plan. “It just can’t be a social media post because you’re afraid of being called, it has to be a business-wide strategy,” she said.
The Black in Fashion Council worked with the Human Rights Campaign to create an Equality Index to assess corporate policies and practices relevant to black employee inclusiveness. Peoples Wagner said there are so many companies they’ve spoken to that are diverse in numbers, but inclusion is objective, as is making an employee feel seen or heard.
The council has also set up a job board, is working on different town halls and with several brands on initiatives, while continuing its relationship with IMG, working with 15 new designers for their showroom and expanding to Los Angeles. A job fair is planned for late spring, with plans to involve community organizations and schools for disadvantaged youth to expose them to opportunities. “It will be an exciting educational weekend,” said Charles.
To get involved with the Black in Fashion Council, Peoples Wagner said a brand simply needs to contact her or contact Charles or visit Blackinfashioncouncil.com.
“We’re really serious about this. When companies contact us, we really want to see that they are interested in the change. We’re not interested in companies that join in just for a press moment, ”said Peoples Wagner. “If you want to work with us, that will also require work on your part.”
When asked how long it would take to see real change in the fashion industry when it comes to racial diversity and leadership, Charles said it would only happen over time.
“We hope we are taking the first steps to create a plan that all brands can use,” she said. “By the time we all retire, the next generation will have an easier time navigating their careers.”
“I love what we’re doing, following on from everything that happened last year,” added Peoples Wagner. “I love that we are pushing the conversation towards an active ally and making the point that people need to be actively anti-racist.”
For more information, see:
Tommy Hilfiger Forges Key Partnerships To Advance Under-Represented Communities In Fashion
When it comes to diversity in fashion, there is a lot of work to be done.
IMG and the Black in Fashion Council strengthen their alliance
Color of Change, Joan Smalls, IMG and the Black in Fashion Council launch #ChangeFashion
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