June 2020 can be seen as a catalyst for the necessary change in the fashion industry.
After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 at the hands of Derek Chauvin and the charges against other Minneapolis police officers who were there, and the murder of Breonna Taylor when Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Police Department broke into her home, hundreds of thousands across the United States and around the world took to the streets to protest another black person being killed amid continuing injustices by law enforcement .
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Many companies were drawn into the protests when their stores were looted, forcing them to take a stand on the events. And as injustices grabbed the headlines, some people started to think about how they could do better.
While many posted black squares on Instagram to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and donated to charities and organizations to support those in need, others like the founder of Brother Vellies Aurora James, designer Victor Glemaud and stylists Law Roach and Jason Rembert and more, have taken it a step further, launching initiatives to bring fairness to black designers and designers after too many of them have stagnated or excluded of the fashion industry for too long.
For some initiatives, like the Black Design Collective which started a year before the first protests last summer, this marked a turning point in their efforts.
I would say the collective received more attention and awareness after George Floyd’s murder, said designer and co-founder and president of Black Design Collective Kevan Hall.
The Black Design Collective was started in 2019 by Hall and designers Angela Dean, Cross Colors founder TJ Walker and Oscar winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter. The initiative is a platform for black designers to produce and market their products, mentorship for young aspiring designers, and a scholarship fund.
The collective has partnered with the California Fashion Foundation, a nonprofit organization associated with the California Fashion Association, to host workshops on business development and success in the fashion industry. The first workshop was held in April 2019 and more took place virtually during the pandemic.
We have seen our membership numbers increase by 100% since summer 2020 so far, Hall said, adding that some members are from the UK, Canada, France, Bahamas and the Netherlands. . Their group has secured $ 1.7 million in funding through grants, loans and private investors.
The Black Design Collective hosted virtual events including Pulling Back the Curtain, a conversation between TJ Walker and Pyer Moss founder and designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, and a monthly series of discussions with designers, factory owners. and retailers for IGTV. They also joined forces with the CFDA to present the designers of the collective on the platform of the organization Runway 360.
CFDA introduced us to NuOrder, a business-to-business platform to present to retailers and fashion directors, Hall said. NuOrder gave us the opportunity to participate for a year and Runway 360 is underway.
For initiatives that started in 2020, most have received support throughout the rest of the year and into 2021. But organizations agree that there is still work to be done.
Hall said he would have liked to see more black designers hired in the past year and data from companies that have signed deals with organizations.
Usually they were the last to be hired and the first to be fired. I would like to see more intentionality, he says. I’d like a report from some of these companies saying they’re going to expand their commodity matrix and hire and promote workers. How much have you made? Let’s see some receipts. I think there has been some movement, but until I saw people of color in the C-suite in companies and more designers of color in specialty stores and not just for [a] season, see the support for brands through advertising and shows, workshops to educate salespeople and educate customers on the incredible impact that color designers have had on the industry, then there is a lot of work to do. to do.
The 15 Percent Pledge, one of initiatives founded in 2020 by Aurora James, calls on retailers to dedicate 15% of their storage space to black-owned businesses in order to align with U.S. Census data indicating that 2019, the black community represented 13.4% of the population.
Some of the early adopters of the 15 percent fashion and beauty pledge include Sephora and Rent the Runway, and have been followed over the past year by Macys and Bloomingdales, Bluemercury, Madewell, Gap Inc ., Kith, Moda Operandi, Hudson’s Bay Company, Matchesfashion, J. Crew and, more recently, Ulta Beauty. This month, the Pledge announced that there are 25 companies and pawn shops to date.
I was terrified of showing up that day, asking for something so gigantic, James wrote in an Instagram post. I tagged the companies that I think could make a difference. Some did, some didn’t. There are now 13 full-time people at the Pledge, a senior team by my side that I love to death and we just started putting our very first board together! I am very grateful to all of the people who have traveled over the past 12 months at different times to make this happen. There’s one thing I’m sure we’re just getting started. I am so proud of the work we have done. I am so grateful to all of the amazing CEOs, Founders and Teams who have stepped forward to make the commitment over the past year!
The Black in Fashion Council, led by The Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Sandrine Charles, owner of Sandrine Charles Consulting, has come together to provide more opportunities for black designers and designers in the fashion industry . The council provides a directory for brands to connect with black creatives and also holds the industry accountable with an index score to track each brand’s engagements.
What we learned in the first few months was that there were so many brands looking to participate, Charles said. The board was launched with 38 brand engagements, including Gap with Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, Tiffany & Co., The RealReal, PVH Corp. and the brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, Browns Fashion, Farfetch and Cartier, among others. To date, the board has signed 75 brands.
So many companies promised a lot of great things and after the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders brands realized they had to change, Peoples Wagner added.
The council partnered with IMG to provide space for emerging designers during New York Fashion Week, which debuted in September 2020, and said this fall it would launch a survey on how brands rise to the occasion with the Human Rights Campaign.
Additionally, on June 5, the organization held its first career fair with participating brands H&M, Gap, Instagram, Saks Fifth Avenue, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hearst.
The pipeline begins with [making] young people of color know the jobs and gain experience in a program, said Peoples Wagner. Its exhibition on available careers and for employers who were not present at the fair, offered a directory to have a pool of talents.
Much of the job is going to take a long time, added Peoples Wagner. Making sure these are long-term, sustainable changes requires work over the next three years to change systems and infrastructure. I think the more the merrier. There is room for all of us to work against these systems and find a way forward for people of color.
the Kelly Initiative was also part of the biggest racial justice conversation in 2020. The initiative is a four-point plan to increase the hiring of black talent in the industry founded by industry creators Kibwe Chase-Marshall, Henrietta Gallina and Jason Campbell and named after the late designer Patrick Kelly, the first black American designer to be admitted to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne in 1988.
Other initiatives, like the non-profit organization Black Fashion and Beauty Collective created by stylist and designer Rembert, Roach and hairstylist Lacy Redway in June 2020, also brought black creatives together and highlighted their efforts (their first conversations for this project took place in 2019).
Later that year, during Paris Fashion Week in the fall, Glemaud launched In the Blk, a global collective of black fashion designers that includes members Rembert, Roach and Redway, as well as designers Virgil Abloh. , Stella Jean and Liya Kebede, among others.
Antoine Gregory also launched the conceptual retail space Black Fashion Fair.
Gregory first thought of Black Fashion Fair in 2016, which grew out of a thread he started on Twitter of black designers to know from America and Europe. In 2018, he continued to develop the idea with the mission of connecting black designers and black fashion history to anyone interested. He also uses the Fashion Fair as an archive for the fashion designs of black talent. Gregory had planned to host a trade show in 2020 before the pandemic turns the project into a virtual affair. The Black Fashion Fair repertoire started with 218 designers and Gregory said that number is now close to 300.
Black Fashion Fair was the first of its kind, explained Gregory. He sees this concept as a way for black designers to own their narrative and experience instead of getting it caught, repackaged and resold.
We set the tone and I think it’s amazing to see people wanting to support black designers, he said. Black fashion is the new hip hop. We’ve been trying to make this our own for so long, so how are we going to own our own narrative?
Gregory hosted the first fall fair showcasing 21 black designers and artwork by director and curator Gagosian Antwaun Sargent, and photographers Ahmad Barber and Dont Maurice from AB + DM. A few designers to show had their first wholesale experience through the Fashion Fair. The next fall fair will take place on September 17th.
More recently, the Fashion Show held his first classes with the Brooklyn Sewing Academy, an ongoing partnership where those interested in the design and craft process can learn pattern making, tailoring and fashion illustration. Gregory also plans to do studio tours with designer Theophilio and young model makers and design development studio Hips Studio.
When asked if he thinks the industry is as supportive today as it is in 2020, Gregory said: There is a need to want to continue to support black designers and emerging designers in this regard. which concerns American designers, but all the work I have done has been related to black culture and black fashion. I don’t pay much attention, because we were doing so much work on our own and that’s not our goal and it’s not the goal of our work. It is a benchmark for black fashion, style and culture. It lives beyond me and beyond this moment and black designers deserve to have that spotlight on them.
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