Home Fashion Voices of Fashion’s Black Creatives on the Work to Be Done, Part 2 – WWD

Voices of Fashion’s Black Creatives on the Work to Be Done, Part 2 – WWD

0
Voices of Fashion’s Black Creatives on the Work to Be Done, Part 2 – WWD

https://pmcwwd.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/instagra-2.jpg?w=640&h=415&crop=1

The protests go on ⁠— and the voices for change grow louder.

Marches protesting the killing of George Floyd filled streets across America over the weekend, and the sense among many is that this time feels different. While there have been strings of similar protests over the years, all of those eventually subsided, with tiny steps of change, but no fundamental shift.

But in this second part of a series, WWD’s conversations with black creatives indicate they strongly believe ⁠— and hope ⁠— that the fashion world ⁠— and world in general ⁠— might finally be on the road to systemic change toward eliminating racism and unconscious bias. If nothing else, the protesters have made one thing clear: Racism sadly still exists.

Aurora James, Brother Vellies

Aurora James

Aurora James 
Stephane Feugere/WWD

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

As a business owner, and during this pandemic, I am especially torn up by how much black businesses are suffering. The number of working black business owners has fallen by 40 percent during the coronavirus ⁠— more than any other racial group and according to the Center for Responsible Lending, 95 percent of black-owned businesses were unlikely to receive the first round of the PPP.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

Immediate next step is to grow our network and get more people to support by signing up for Pledge updates. This can put pressure to get to the second step of securing the first company to commit to the 15 Percent Pledge. Individuals can head to 15percentpledge.com and sign up to Stand With Us (15percentpledge.com/stand-with-us). They can also text “PLEDGE” to 917-540-8148 to walk in this journey with us.

And, of course, please follow us on Instagram: @15percentpledge.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

If they really want to make it happen, change can happen. No one else is going to make this change happen for them. Brands need to mobilize and think about what kind of change is real and attainable for their business. Whether it is setting a goal of more diversity in your workforce, the content you create, or the brands you carry in your store, what we are asking is not that tough and we are here to help brands attain that 15 percent with clear and attainable goals. First they need to take stock of where they are and complete an audit of their business. Then they need to accept where they are at, own it and figure out how they got there. Last, they need to commit ⁠— commit to achieving a minimum of 15 percent, set a deadline to achieve this and put a system in play where they can be held accountable. It could take a few years, but we are here to help lay out that plan and strategy. And we have some of the most brilliant black minds on board to help make it happen.

What role can the media play?

The media can also take part in the Pledge. Whether it is committing to hiring more black writers, copy editors, designers, etc. Or committing your content to covering more black-owned businesses. The media is not exempt from this need for racial equality.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

Seeing and reading all of the comments from supporters of the Pledge. People want this to happen, and I am hopeful that they can help make this change a reality.

 

Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons 
Courtesy

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

There is something reassuring in seeing so many eyes, hearts and minds finally being open to the trauma and pain that black Americans have experienced for years. Once those are open, it’s not likely they’ll be shut again.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

I’ve been inspired by many media outlets ceding space and bandwidth to black voices and allowing stories to be told on their own terms. Just having the presence of mind not to censor, not to sugar coat, not channel or translate. It’s something I’ve rarely seen in the media.

What role can the media play?

Baby Phat social media has taken a pause for now on product marketing. We’re using our platforms to spotlight stories that must be told and offering meaningful guidance to our community ⁠— one that is uniquely impacted by all that is going on around us. That’s our responsibility as a black-owned brand that cleared a path for so many that came after us.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I’ve seen a lot of brands make clumsy entries into the social justice space. In many cases, it feels stilted because it doesn’t come across as authentic. Which doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they’re new to the space. This is a learning process for people, so of course it will be a process for brands as well.

 

Ted Gibson

Ted Gibson 
Courtesy Photo

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

People make assumptions based on the color of my skin. In my career, in the fashion business, I have faced this. If you know me, I am always in a suit jacket. The reason for this is because my mom taught me at an early age that I was different because of the color of my skin, that I need to look a certain way for people to be receptive. I was looking for representation, a new agent. I went to the Wall Group to drop my book off. When I arrived, I felt it immediately, that feeling of: What are you doing here? I dropped my book off. A couple of days later they called me to come pick my book up. As I walked in I felt the same thing: What are you doing here? The person said they actually thought I was a bike messenger. I was wearing a suit. At that time they didn’t have any black hairdressers on their board or makeup artist on their board ⁠— I lost respect for them after. I have worked with some of the most amazing women in the world, on red carpets, in fashion shows, in every market and Vogue still viewed me as a black hairdresser, not a hairdresser.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality? 

Well, first of all, stop acting like it doesn’t exist. Over the last two years specifically we have seen major brands ⁠— Gucci, Prada, Celine, Burberry ⁠— create a storm of racist items that were to be sold. They did it on purpose. It’s unacceptable and ridiculous that we have had that conversation before. People just don’t think about anyone but themselves.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products? 

I think it’s more than just having a person of color in an ad. It’s about having people of color on your teams to help guide brands in the right direction when it comes to race.

What role can the media play? 

Bring it to light when they see it. Talk about it. Have focus groups to make changes and shed light on a subject that should not make people feel uncomfortable.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment? 

That people are not putting up with it anymore, that’s what makes me hopeful.

 

 

Shantell Martin, Artist

Shantell Martin

Shantell Martin 
Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

Being underestimated. Being ignored. Being devalued. Having to justify any of my accomplishments. As a black artist it’s always interesting to see how many people don’t want to even comprehend how I could achieve what I have just because of the color of my skin. But my favorite is when I’m told that my being straightforward and professional is “aggressive.” I’m sure many black women can relate to that one.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

Historically, the fashion industry has profited off of black culture, black designers, black creatives, black artists, black bodies, black consumers, and so on. The list is endless. The change that needs to occur, so that the fashion industry can be a part of the fight against racism, is to first acknowledge and take accountability for the systemic racism within the industry itself and then make steps to change that. It can’t just be about having conversations and listening. There needs to be actions taken toward true change starting at the top such as hiring black ceo’s, black board members, and black creative directors, etc. The excuse that there aren’t black people qualified for those positions is not acceptable. The industry must also begin celebrating and supporting black-owned businesses and investing in black-owned brands so that they are able to grow and reach broader audiences.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

Things have to be authentic, honest and usually it’s from the inside out and really engaging with the communities that they’re trying to reach. Companies that are tone-deaf or profit from glamourizing the byproduct of systemic racism should not have a place within the industry.

The industry should have standards and do its homework. There are so many resources out there so that companies can educate themselves. No more excuses.

Instagram posts from Armando Cabral and BLK MKT Vintage.

Instagram posts from Armando Cabral and BLK MKT Vintage. 

What role can the media play?

The media profits from sensationalizing or veering into “entertainment” and perpetuating negative stereotypes instead of being a tool of education and exposing the truth and truly being unbiased. If the media wants to play a positive role than like, I’ve said before, it all starts from within and at the top and creating a culture where it’s about education over education.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

That, if you like it or not, we have to innovate and change and I’m hoping that some progress comes from that.

I also find a lot of hope knowing that so many young people have the tools to educate themselves and be exposed to different perspectives, different cultures, and different people, and so many of them are already taking steps to become the leaders that so many have lacked before them.

 

Jeffrey Banks

Jeffrey Banks and Stephen Burrows 
Frenel Morris

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

Interestingly, the only major obstacle I faced was as an assistant to Ralph Lauren, when he asked me to check out a potential showroom space at 550 Seventh Avenue on a very hot and humid August day. I was denied access to the building through the front entrance, because I was not wearing a tie, allegedly! This, despite the fact I was dressed in a Polo suit and wearing Gucci loafers. I was told to take the freight entrance. I complained bitterly afterward, and that policy (which was  clearly discriminatory) was quickly abandoned.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

The industry, through various leading voices like Fashion For All Foundation and the CFDA, has to continue to be vigilant and uber-vocal whenever and wherever they see unjust policies continuing.

Instagram posts from Sandrine Charles, Third Crown, and Bianca Saunders.

Instagram posts from Sandrine Charles, Third Crown, and Bianca Saunders. 

What should brands be doing to enact change from within and promote inclusion in their workforces, imagery and products?

I think the fashion industry has always been a leader when it comes to inclusive hiring, it’s always been about creativity and qualifications, not the color of one’s skin. As far as imagery, we have made strides in representing diverse faces in advertising, though we still have a ways to go in that area. The biggest problem is getting the financial world to loosen its purse strings more when it comes to minority-owned businesses.

What role can the media play?

The role of the media is, and always has been, to showcase what is vibrant and new, wherever it comes from. And good journalists always do that.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

The fact that we are no longer sweeping these issues under the carpet, but are actively discussing the inequities inherent in the fashion business, makes me feel hopeful that change is possible.

 

B Michael

B Michael

B Michael 
Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

Access to real investor capital to compete and scale as a proven luxury brand and business, and our industry’s recognition.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

As a $3 trillion global industry, the fashion industry has the financial strength to truly affect legislative and economic/equity change. The fashion industry must also be accountable for its long-standing practice of systemic racism.

I read with great interest the press alert you sent out with the subject line “Platitudes” about the CFDA statement and wanted to reach out for further comment:

Thank you for your question regarding our platitude statement. B Michael is a longtime CFDA member who was sponsored by Oscar de la Renta.

B Michael has elected to be a nonactive member of the CFDA, he believes the CFDA has never benefited him personally or his brand as a black fashion designer. All of the CFDA initiatives continue to be sanctioned by industry elites practicing bias exclusion. This is a contradiction to the original core mission of the organization. Including black celebrities and honoring black celebrities at the CFDA awards does not truly address the economic/equity exclusion independent black designers and brands continue to see from the fashion industry and media.

Instagram posts from Salomon Diaz and Yashua Simmons

Instagram posts from Salomon Diaz and Yashua Simmons 

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforce and in their imagery and products?

As designers and brands, we must foster value-added relationships across the board. Economically empowering black-owned brands and businesses would organically promote inclusion in the workforce, imagery and products.

What role can the media play?

The media must be more inclusive of independent black fashion designers in its coverage, media outlets cannot continue to base editorial coverage on advertising buys and nepotism. The collateral designers and brands receive from editorial coverage clearly plays a huge role in attracting investors, retail partners and consumers.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

This movement gives us hope, and we expect transparency and real economic/equity change and inclusion.

 

Anifa Mvuemba, Hanifa

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

Being black in America is exhausting. We constantly feel like we have to defend our belonging in all spheres of life: existing, innovating, etc.

Most recently a notable publication discredited our Pink Label Congo Collection as the first Livestream 3-D Fashion Show simply by failing to fact check. The writer claimed an AI start-up brand is planning to stream the “first show,” despite our show going viral on media outlets including theirs less than two weeks ago. It still wasn’t enough for them to credit a black designer and fashion brand for actually being the first.

All of that fails in comparison, however, to the challenge of managing our emotions on a regular basis. Having to show up when our hearts are heavy. I worry about our black men, our black women, our black children, and our communities. Racism in this country is woven into the fabric that many wear every day. As a designer, I’m constantly challenged to do more to support the black women who have contributed to our success. They’re the reason why we’re here. Hanifa has to mean more than the clothing, we owe it to them.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality? 

The fashion industry should be honest, present and action-driven about the racial disparities among our industry. To be quite frank, the industry is often the beneficiary of black culture but seemingly tone-deaf to the systemic injustices facing our community. The best thing the fashion industry can do right now is to be as intentional about defending our rights as they are about using our culture and heritage in their marketing. It’s also incredibly important for the industry to lead by example. We need diversity from the entry level designer to the decision maker. At this point, it’s overdue.

In the words of Rihanna: “Pull up.”

Instagram posts from All Cap Studio and Tyler Mitchell

Instagram posts from All Cap Studio and Tyler Mitchell 

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

Inclusion has to start from the top down, but inclusion on its own is not enough. In addition to hiring diverse qualified team members, managers have to empower those hires to actually influence the position they occupy. Too often we are “included” but in a very limited capacity where we can’t make any real change.

What role can the media play?

In many ways the media has one of the biggest responsibilities. They shape our view of the world by the images they show. It’s time for the media to do their research and to ask informed questions that reflect what our world actually looks like. Enough of superficial advertisements and launches. We want to see our meaningful selves in the media. Editors should be sensitive to consider the emotional climate during situations like the recent passing of George Floyd, and all of the other black lives that have been murdered. It’s incredibly disrespectful and insensitive to send a pitch about a new collection when the state of black America is mourning.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I’m encouraged by my generation. We are mobilizing in a way I have never seen before. The allyship is also inspiring. I feel more needs to be done after the outrage settles but this tragedy feels different. I think we are finally reaching people who previously didn’t listen.

 

Matthew Harris, Mateo New York

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

I want to start by saying this: I am from the island of Jamaica, where I was raised on the national motto, “Out of Many, One People.” I went to school with kids from all over the world, as far as Burma. I have navigated my way through life with this principle and mind-set.

With that being said, working in the fashion industry, I was quickly reminded of the color of my skin (a reality I never paid much attention to) and have faced many obstacles and challenges over the years. From retailers asking me to join minority organizations or trying to buy my collection to fill their minority portfolios. Of course, I refuse.

I believe my talent and not my skin color was enough. Some buyers will not look at black brands. End of. I have seen it over and over again. Sometimes if they feel guilty they will send the assistant of the assistant of the junior buyer as a courtesy. Look at the top retailers and gather how many black brands they stock?! The proof is in the evidence. I am not saying all retailers are this way, but many have failed to adjust with the times. There are some incredible people such as Elizabeth von der Goltz from Net-a-porter, Tanika Wisdom over at Matches, Caroline Maguire at Shopbop, among others.

Another challenge is also real mentoring. No one truly takes the time to mentor young black designers. I have seen it firsthand. I entered the CFDA Fashion Fund for that exact same reason and received no such thing. Pushed to the back burner because I was too outspoken. This is one of the core explanations as to why so many American brands have failed and are failing. Black designers need the right tools to be able to compete effectively with their other counterparts. Not to be used as a publicity stunt. Train them, give them access to the resources and financials in order to have a long-term and successful brand. I will always applaud the Workshop at Macy’s headed by Shawn Outler as they have gotten it right with that program, where many have and continue to fail.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

The fashion industry has to start from the root, the core, to fight racist policies and police brutality. You cannot have a board of all white people making fundamental decisions. This is not the multicultural, multiracial world we live in today.

The moment we truly make changes at the top, then we will see a real trickle-down effect to have real diversity! Not a trend of the moment, but a radical, life-changing and long-lasting new way of life.

There also needs to be a cleaning out of racist executives. They need to be held accountable. Too often I have heard of many using the “N” word in corporate e-mails. It’s unacceptable and until they are fired, we can’t have change, as it sets the tone for the firm.

Instagram posts from Kimberly Drew (illustration by ggggrimes) and Grace Mahary.

Instagram posts from Kimberly Drew (illustration by ggggrimes) and Grace Mahary. 
Photos by ggggrimes and Grace Mahary

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

I would like to write a long extended answer, but the answer remains the same. It starts at the top of the organization and we don’t care if you hire a director of multicultural and diversity or whatever ridiculous title you want to name it. Hire qualified blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc. Period!

Then, only then, we will see changes. Changes to imagery, advertising, marketing, and so forth.

What role can the media play?

Again, it comes back to the overused word, diversity, but long-lasting, real ingrained diversity.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

This time around feels different, as people are beyond overwhelmed with the racial injustice in this country. And that makes me hopeful as more people are becoming outraged as they ought to be. I have been marching in the protest here in Los Angeles for four days now and I see people from all walks of life, race and ethnicities. Americans are tired of the nonsense.

No American should want to live in a country where such madness is taking place. Especially when the answer is so simple. To simply treat our brothers and sisters as how we would like to be treated. Really, that’s it! That’s where it starts.

 

Kevan Hall, designer and cofounder of the Black Design Collective

Kevan Hall

Kevan Hall 
Debbie Lee

What unique challenges have you faced in fashion because of your race?

When I accepted the prestigious post of design and creative director for the iconic American brand Halston, I couldn’t have imagined the firestorm that would be ignited. New York fashion players can be insular but beyond that, there were rumblings as to how a black man had been chosen to head the house and could he do it. With four weeks to show time, I assembled a new team, designed and presented the spring 1999 collection.

Seated in the front row was a stellar lineup of fashion editors and retailers: the late Liz Tilberis (Harper’s Bazaar), Polly Mellen (Allure), André Leon Tally (Vogue), Constance C.R. White (The New York Times) and Joan Kaner (fashion director, Neiman Marcus). With 42 stunning looks, all doubters were silenced. Senior vice president Joe Boitano was waiting at the Halston showroom the following morning at 8 a.m. to be the first to negotiate placement for Saks Fifth Avenue. Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman soon followed as did every other major boutique in the U.S.

In spite of the wonderful reviews and increase in sales, when the company was sold the new owners did not renew my contract as they preferred a different face for the brand.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

To fight racist policies, there has to be a change in the mind-set throughout the industry regarding hiring and promoting practices. If they’re serious, they should be transparent and be willing to publish information as to the diversity of their staff.

It’s easy to hop on board to be politically correct in the midst of the protests but the proof will be in the company’s long-term commitment to provide opportunities for black people to have positions on boards, management and in the design rooms. Time will tell.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

Less than 10 percent of fashion designers in the U.S. are black. What makes a successful fashion brand? Support! If the fashion industry would support black brands, they would have an opportunity to build their companies into household names as many others have done. It’s a matter of economics.

What role should the media play?

Retailers and media need to adjust their merchandise mix and include diversity. Celebrities also need to wear black designers on the red carpet for exposure. We know how the right celebrity at the right red carpet event can propel a designer’s career. There are incredibly talented black designers that are more than capable of providing beautiful quality collections in every category, if given the chance.

Instagram posts from Mel D. Cole and Yvonne Orji.

Instagram posts from Mel D. Cole and Yvonne Orji. 

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I feel a shift in the zeitgeist and believe America and the world has finally opened its eyes and is ready to address the social inequality, economic disparity and systemic racism that has plagued black people for hundreds of years. To witness such a diverse assembly of protesters for 10 days joined in peaceful solidarity and to see the swell of the crowds gives me hope that this time, change will come.

 

TJ Walker, cofounder of Cross Colours, and cofounder of the Black Design Collective

What unique challenges have you faced in fashion because of your race?

The challenges that I face as a black man in the fashion industry are the same challenges that any black person faces. We are black! We cannot change being black, but I do hope people change how they view black people overall because we contribute a great deal to the human race.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

The fashion industry should do what many are doing around the world. “Speak Yo Mind” as we said in the ’90s through our clothing brand Cross Colours. I see that the industry is stepping up, and this is so needed. The other thing that the industry can do is help change the policies, lobby and petition for stronger induction procedures based on mental health.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products? 

This is a loaded question…To enact change ⁠— people have to change and be accepting of permanent change, not a trend of change. To promote Inclusion ⁠— people need to be “inclusive” and this needs to be simply represented by the culture and make up of the people who are on the team. The imagery of a brand is so very important, but we need to also change the policies around this based on the standards that are currently viewed as the norm. Let’s enact change by changing and holding to change until things need to change based on equality forall. Creating our brand Cross Colours, our tagline was and still is “Clothing Without Prejudice”!

What role can the media play?

The media’s role in the current events and all events should be the same: the unbiased truth! The media’s role has become in many cases driven by ratings and entertainment. The media has a huge responsibility to the world to serve us the truth based on facts, and here I also think that the rules governing the media need to be looked at as well.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

What makes [Cross Colours cofounder] Carl [Jones] and I feel hopeful at the moment is that change is here! What we also hope is that “change” is here not just as a trend but as a core item in the DNA of our brand as humans.

 

Nyakio Grieco, founder of Nyakio Beauty

Nyakio Grieco

Nyakio Grieco 
Jason Au

What unique challenges have you faced in fashion because of your race?

As a black woman and clean beauty founder, I have encountered numerous challenges in my entrepreneurial journey. When I entered this space in 2002, there were very few women who looked like me focused on globally sourced, sustainable ingredients. It can be endemic in the beauty space for women founders ⁠— especially black women founders ⁠— to be elevated as leaders and drivers of their own businesses, not just figureheads.

As a black clean beauty founder, it was paramount for me to source ingredients from around the globe that are used by underrepresented women in their traditional beauty rituals. My challenges were twofold: As a black founder, the perception that I would not be qualified to speak to the beauty needs and traditions of women of other ethnicities and cultures, in contrast to the perception that I am only adept to speak of ingredients often associated with black consumers like African Black Soap, Kenyan Coffee, and Argan Oil.  What I learned from my Kenyan family, who passed down wisdom from my grandfather who was a medicine man, is that natural beauty goes beyond the limits of skin color.

As black women, we know how to mobilize. We know that it all starts with creating generational wealth in our communities. The beauty industry should be helping us to level that playing field. That can start by giving more black women more seats in the boardroom, more funding for our businesses and more mentorship to our young so that we can help them shape their future. It is all connected.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality, and what role does the media play?

It’s been so heartening to see the level of diversity in beauty and fashion media. It is so important to continue sharing stories of inclusivity from all women from all walks of life. There is no longer a boiler plate for the “typical” fashion and beauty reader or lifestyle.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

What gives me hope is finding comfort in the uncomfortable. While the heartbreaking events of senseless brutality have devastated us, it has exposed hatred to a level that can no longer be ignored. I embrace the questions of “what can I do”? “How can I help”?  Because only in those moments can we usher in change. The more we have these conversations, the less uncomfortable they become. That gives me hope.

 

Romeo Hunte

Romeo Hunte

Romeo Hunte 
Courtesy Photo

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race? 

My greatest challenge was coming into this industry on my own as a self-funded brand, all while building a name for myself in an industry that wasn’t so welcoming of black designers. I remember my first show being called “ghetto” by one of the most prominent editors in the industry, realizing that one of the reasons why it was deemed as ghetto was due to an all-black team, from models to production. This also takes me back to my first deskside with a marketing editor at a major publication company. They thought my Asian employee was actually the designer of the Romeo Hunte Brand: They acknowledged him as Romeo. Black designers are often not included in the constantly recycled coverage of luxury brands. One of the biggest retailers told me that If I was a CFDA baby then they would buy into the collection immediately.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

People should be held accountable for their actions against black people within the fashion industry. Acknowledge more designers for their talent and skill, and place them with other diverse designers. Do not just throw us on The Top 10 Black Designers for Black History Month; give us a seat at the table where we deserve. We shouldn’t be separated from the fashion industry when it comes down to editors showing up for us. Black designers always get served last. For example, big retail companies pick and choose one or two black designers for placement.

The fashion industry can assist with dismantling racist policies and police brutality by first making it a part of their duty to constantly keep both their employees and audience informed on the history of racism and systemic oppression within the United States and beyond. The fashion industry can also help through assisting with more year-round donations and job placements, not just when it is convenient to them. A relationship should be established between the industry and the Black Lives Matter movement, including donations for victims and the families affected by police brutality. #8cantwait is a great first-step call to an action plan devised by Campaign Zero, a nonprofit organization that is steadfast in making a sustainable change against police brutality. Bringing #8cantwait to the forefront as a means to decrease police brutality violence by 72 percent; these policies include the banning of chokeholds and strangleholds, de-escalation, warning before shooting, exhausting all alternatives before shooting, highlighting the duty to intervene, banning shooting at moving vehicles, establishing use of force continuum and lastly requiring all force to be reported. This is not a trend, this should be an ongoing education to the viewers, from donations to spreading awareness. George Floyd was yet another reminder of how a system instilled to protect us shouldn’t cost us our lives no matter our background or race. We call on the fashion industry to be more than just an ally but an advocate for change. This shouldn’t be an incident that is here today and forgotten tomorrow, dismantling racist policies and police brutality should be a commitment.

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

Brands within the industry can enact change by educating staff on racial profiling within the workplace, from retail stores to publications, marketing teams to p.r. agencies. Include more black employees across the board. This has several benefits such as ongoing assistance with the fundamentals on culture and race appropriation in efforts to educate the audience on black history in a way that leaves no room for error. When a more diverse team is set in place within the industry, there will be more people of color willing to speak up without the fear of losing their jobs because equality is all we’ve been asking for. A more diverse workplace can create opportunities and changes which reflect across all of these issues: from social injustice to the cultural sensitivity of the imagery and the products we consume.

What role should the media play?

The media should use social media platforms to educate consumers! It presents a room for opportunity which black designers should not be excluded from. It should work to promote black designers, their business, storefronts. I think the industry should help mentor emerging designers who need investment through campaigns and covers. Create more opportunities for them, more awards, more recognition. It shouldn’t just be black magazines who are doing this like Essence, Ebony, etc. Diversity should be the focus of the images the media chooses to portray. Children should not be growing up only seeing white skin associated with everyday consumption. This leads to implicit biases which only perpetuate the cycle of systemic racism. We are now presented with an opportunity for brands to integrate these philosophies long term. Consumers will also have to stand up against this for both the media and the fashion industry to have a more inclusive, equitable future.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

What makes me feel hopeful at this moment is my persistence. Throughout my life, I have always had to adapt as a black man, especially in this industry. Right now, for the first time, I don’t have to adapt because my community is standing with me in solidarity! Thank you for everyone who has been protesting and putting their lives on the line; George Floyd has amplified the voices in the black community! I feel as though this racist pandemic urges the fashion industry and those in power to come forward to help fix things. Solidarity is powerful and should not be temporary.

 

Bethann Hardison, former model, modeling agency owner, activist 

Bethann Hardison

Bethann Hardison 
Clint Spaulding/Shutterstock

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race? 

Not many. I was lucky to grow up in the garment business. Only when I started my own [modeling] business I heard from one young white guy, who I represented, that they said there was no way I was going to succeed because I was black. But I knew I had to make it, because I was being told that all along that I could. I was being offered by everyone to go into business, even when I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My first fashion show with Chester Weinberg on Seventh Avenue in the late Sixties was a little different. But I never thought it was because of my race. I thought it was because of the way I looked…I was raised every summer from the time I was 18 months old to 18 years old in North Carolina. Even though North Carolina was the best state in the South when it came down to segregation, you still got to understand how to live amongst others. How to only use the colored toilets and colored water fountains ⁠— you couldn’t go in the front door at the five and dime store, you had to go in the back. All of those things you grow up knowing and understanding. But my industry, if I thought they were racist, I don’t think I could have thought I could change anything. That’s where I lean back and think, “It’s all possible.” We can change an industry. So many young people are so reliant and so smitten with fashion. It saddens me a little. I know this is all they’ve got, but I don’t want it to be all they’ve got. You’ve got to have more to your life than being in an industry that has gotten so glamorous that this is all that you breathe, and then you want to point fingers at it and accuse it. I just think, “Wow. Jeez. You’ve got to have more to your life than that ⁠— please, please.”

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

There are a lot of good organizations like the NAACP and many others. Young people today are listing them all on social media. If you want to get involved and throw somebody a coin, there are a lot of wonderful organizations that are doing things. They need your support. If you’re not sure who that is, go to the great ones that are known. If you feel, “How can I affect the police?” That’s a whole other story. That’s a DNA. How can you change that?

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

People put too much on this industry. They expect them to turn into little leprechauns. First of all, just stay in your lane and create…This industry has changed so greatly in so many ways. We’ve gotten so involved with popular culture and many other things. Now you’re responsible. You’re no longer an elitist island. The Garment District wasn’t at one time. It was a manufacturing business. Once it became glorified and glamorous, it was still an elitist island but then it became open to the world. Now you’ve got to bear the world’s problems. Now you’ve got to get involved. The only reason that racism exists is because you don’t integrate other races into your companies. If you’re walking around in an all-white office, you need to wake up and smell the coffee. That doesn’t necessarily mean putting in all black people. Anything that is other than Caucasian needs to be integrated. A lot of white people and black people need to get to know each other so that we can get strong and get smart. A lot of us think exactly the same and are on the same side of culture. What’s getting ready to happen in our country is something that no one is prepared for. Our democracy is in a challenged position. It’s chess now ⁠— you’ve just got to make the right moves.

What role should the media play?

What I like is that you can have good ole time journalism, where people just dig up things. They want to talk about it before it becomes so [widespread] and make people feel responsible. They can feel there is something there and they want to shed a bigger light on it. All the media can do is to continue to report, but have individual journalists who care to talk about things that most people aren’t talking about so easily. There are a lot of things happening in society that people just let rest because they don’t think it’s being made enough noise of. It’s [a matter of] what sells quote-unquote. At the end of the day, there are so many things of great importance. It’s like the kid, who got shot in Georgia outside of Savannah [Ahmaud Arbery]. It was not known to any of us on a normal media wavelength until a month or two later. It’s because it got to Shaun King and he made noise about it and that changed everything. That’s not really what people get paid by a company to do.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I don’t think in hope. I’m more of an action person. There are things that need to be done. You have to get out the shovel, come with your pick, have your machete and go to work. Now we have to pray and work toward getting people to change…creative industries can make a shift right now because everyone is talking about race and oppression and trying to come together.

 

Jerry Lorenzo, Fear of God

Jerry Lorenzo 

What unique challenges do you feel you have faced due to your race?

That’s a lifetime answer. If I keep this somehow related to the platform that brings you and I together, which is fashion, everything that I do with Fear of God comes from a lifetime of dressing in a way that, number one ⁠— disarms people, and number two ⁠— puts me in a room where hopefully my fashion can somehow serve as a way to disarm or remove any preconceived notions of who I am. And so for many POC, although your blackness enters the room before you do at all times, what you wear is also ⁠— I can take this the far and left side, kind of like with Trayvon Martin, you don’t get to wear a hoodie and put your hood up, and not be looked at in a certain way, the way we present ourselves is something we don’t have the luxury to not consider. That being said, it’s been considered for me at such a high level my whole life, so translating that consideration into what I design is not a hard thing to do, because every day of my life I have to make this conscious, considered decision of how I’m presenting myself, and as a black man, when you take a day off or when you maybe don’t consider it, ironically those can be the same days where you are looked at differently, or where you’re assumed to be potentially something that you are not, and so fashion for many POC is a way of disarming others of their preconceived notions of who that person may be.

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

I don’t think the fashion industry as a whole should do anything other than look internally. I think before they are quick to speak or support a subject, that change needs to happen within their respective organizations. It’s tough to come out and say we are about inclusivity if your front office and your campaigns have not been inclusive, if your design team has not been inclusive, if your employees and the workforce is not inclusive. It’s a hard thing that needs to be practiced before it can be spoken on. 

What should brands be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

I think they have to really just ask themselves the tough questions, is inclusivity the next “N” word, like “sustainability” is, or is inclusivity really something that we want to be about? I think as soon as you begin to inject policies that are in contrast to the culture of the organization, is when you have a lot of the distress within. You can’t have a policy around hiring POC if that’s truly not something that your company is about or if that’s truly not something your company values. And so I think it’s a “value” thing before it becomes an “action” thing.

What role can the media play?

The role hasn’t necessarily changed, I think writers and editors can understand that what this movement is about isn’t necessarily about police brutality and injustice more so than it is about consideration of other people, and I think before a story is written, if this is about racism and injustice, have we gone through the proper layers of consideration and empathy and compassion and understanding all sides affected by this story? Or is this story being led by some agenda or some p.r. push to further position the publication as an inclusive publication or doing the kosher thing at the moment. In the same way that organizations need to really closely and slowly consider how they move, I think the media should do the same thing.

Instagram posts from Lemlem Official, Muehleder Label, and Mimi Moffie.

Instagram posts from Lemlem Official, Muehleder Label, and Mimi Moffie. 

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

Seeing all of the different races in the protests, seeing the different voices that are popping up across social media, maybe their lives haven’t always matched what they are saying now, but at least they are now seeing things differently. I’m happy the protest wasn’t a one-and-done thing, that this is going on longer, that inspires me. That people are still protesting, they are still in the streets, it’s not a reflection of the way that we’ve consumed a lot of these injustices in the past ⁠— whether it’s Trayvon, you can go down the line about some of these POC that have been murdered. There was a lot of news and then it was forgotten about, and the situation never changed and the climate continued to stay the same. My hope comes that it really feels like we are at a boiling point, and I feel blessed that more eyes and ears are opened and that more people are just attempting in trying to have a conversation.

What were your thoughts on the backlash that Virgil Abloh received on social media and what would you tell those individuals?

I don’t really have any words for those individuals. I FaceTimed Virgil directly, we spoke earlier this week, and I just wanted to encourage him and let him know that his track record speaks louder than any Instagram post you could ever write, you have been the face of inclusion all the way from what you have done, from the models on the runway to the inclusion within your campaigns, to the battles that only you fight that no one else is aware of, being a black man and carrying such a prominent position. The weight he’s had to carry, those people that are making comments have little idea the weight he’s carrying and the work he’s done, and if you do a little bit of research, the work is there. I was just calling to encourage him, to say: “hey man, your track record is louder than this noise that is happening now, it’s going to blow over, and just stay encouraged.” I don’t know that I have words for people that are quick to judge, for the most part a lot of those people have made up their minds based on whatever information they have. I told Virgil our job is to continue to be examples and lights of change; we can’t get caught in the minutia of trying to explain our actions, our life’s work has to speak for us, and hopefully our life’s work is what can ignite change, not an Instagram comment back-and-forth battle, and really try to stay away from those traps.

 

Damien Crews, Agent, Women’s and Men’s Division, Red Models

Damien Crews 

What unique challenges have you faced in fashion because of your race?

I think the most unique challenge that I’ve had to face due to my race would be the constant feeling of always having to overachieve. In the past and often times now, minorities have been looked down upon as less intelligent or less capable so throughout both my personal and professional life I have always felt the need to overachieve and always strive for perfection to receive the minimum amount of respect from the majority of society.

Instagram posts from Marjon Carlos and Tremaine Emory.

Instagram posts from Marjon Carlos and Tremaine Emory. 

What should the fashion industry be doing now to fight racist policies and police brutality?

The fashion industry and all of its creatives within: designers, art directors, modeling agencies, casting directors, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, producers and media outlets should all be using their platforms to condemn racist policies and police brutality. The fashion industry collectively should also be using their platforms of broad reach to create an open forum for us to discuss and bring awareness to not only these systemic issues and injustices within politics, but also bring awareness to the injustices that still exist within the fashion industry.

 

What should brands/model agencies/casting directors be doing to enact change from within, promote inclusion in their workforces and in their imagery and products?

I believe that each entity that makes up our fashion industry has its own responsibility to contribute toward equal inclusion. While more models of color have become more included over the years, the consistent use of as well as the light and oftentimes undertone of which they are used is not equal nor is it just. Those at the helm of top global fashion brands need to first change their outlook on people of color and consistently promote a far more diverse cast of talent to represent their brands, both in front of and behind the camera. Throughout my career as a model manager I have heard far too many times that we should refrain from bringing on another “black” model because “we already have one with the same look.” This notion stems from there already being a severe lack of representation of models of color in the industry and belief that only a handful of models of color will work consistently and become successful on the high level until there is another trend of a wave of inclusivity. Casting directors are hired to cast talent for these brands while maintaining the aesthetic and essence of the brand/designer. If the brand is not progressive with being more inclusive of POC then it’s less likely that the casting director will request [from modeling agencies] a large pool of talent of color.

What role can the media play?

Media in general controls the world. What we see on television, social media, and in advertising campaigns in magazines and at airports, etc., often times shapes our perspective on the society in which we live. The media in all of its forms is a tool to broadcast and sends messages (both positive and negative) to the world. I believe that if global fashion brands greatly shifted and became equally as inclusive of POC then it will create a trickle-down domino effect within the industry where casting directors would be forced to cast more diversely. Modeling agencies globally would be able to acquire more models of color without having to hesitate out of fear of internal competition within their agencies. If a modeling agency can have dozens of brunette and blonde Caucasian models then why can’t an agency have dozens of models of color? Once those responsible for shaping the image of fashion brands are able to become equally inclusive, then the media will be able to showcase this change and inclusion globally.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

During these unprecedented times in which we live, it can be very challenging to find hope and hang on to it. At the moment, platforms and outlets like this one with an intent to amplify black and minority voices to bring awareness and change is what makes me feel hopeful. The current global outrage which has brought so much unity against police brutality and racist policies around the world is what makes me hopeful at the moment. Change doesn’t happen without awareness.

Source link

قالب وردپرس

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here