The surge of black fashion and beauty creatives coming together to bring awareness to the issues they face in a eurocentric industry has been nothing shy of amazing! As a person with a passion hopes to soon enter the fashion industry, I wanted to give my opinion on some of the new developments and initiatives that have taken place. I also wanted to highlight some small black businesses that I think you should be on the lookout for. Let’s talk.
When pressure is applied, diamonds are made. The pressure and tragic events of COVID-19 and racial injustices have caused creatives to question the sociology of every industry. Many high dollar brands and publications have been outed for their discriminatory behavior and poor treatment of their black customers and counterparts in the industry. Vogue, V Magazine, and several other publications have been outed by former employees who shared their stories of being passed up and unheard when it came to content, promotions, and overall representation. Stores like Zimmerman and Anthropologie face scrutiny for being very discriminatory against their workers and its customers. Zimmerman was outed for making it nearly impossible to have black employees due to their presentation guide, which mostly included white and Asian women. The guide prohibited braids, top knots, and plaits; commonly known to be worn by black women. Anthropologie created a guide on how to deal with the black shopper, who they titled “Nickys” when they entered the store; basically breeding a culture of racial profiling. But, if you follow fashion news scandals, you know this already. I, personally, am not a big fan or Anthro or Zimmerman but I know many who are, so seeing that this was going on behind the scenes really makes me wonder about some of my favorite retailers. It shouldn’t be a shocker that racism has its horns in the beauty and fashion industry; which keeps black entrepreneurs, designers, models, and photographers from reaching greater heights. Nevertheless, this has caused many black creatives to finally manifest what they have discussed as a need for our industry; which is not just diversity but equity (and not just equity but true inclusion).
I have been overwhelmingly consumed by how many black fashion and beauty brands have existed but are not able to get the social awareness or support that they deserve. That’s all changing with the numerous amount of initiatives and councils created amidst this pandemic. Celebrities like Beyonce who is known for her constant celebration and support of everything black even chimed in to bring awareness to black brands. Her Black Parade showcase, curated by celebrity fashion stylist Zerina Akers, is dedicated to showcasing various black businesses. Zerina Akers also created an Instagram (which now has 113k followers) named @Black.Owned.Everything, showcasing black brands featuring categories like skin care, jewelry, clothing, and more. There has also been a surge of Amazon-like platforms, the Nile being one of the few, which allows you to search for a product and shows various black companies that make it.
On the industry side of things, individuals have created several initiatives like The Kelly Initiative, named after Patrick Kelly; the late 90s designer known for his efforts to reclaim blackface and he was also the first Black American to ever be accepted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter in Paris(the governing body of the French ready-to-wear industry for my non-fashion buffs). This initiative was created to call out the CFDA’S(Council Of Fashion Designers of America) allowance of “exploitative cultures of prejudice, tokenism, and employment discrimination to thrive.” Also, to petition them to ensure transparency, accountability, and diversity at all levels in the fashion industry. In addition, several other organizations formed like the Black In Fashion Council. They have dedicated themselves to the advancement of blacks in the beauty and fashion industry hoping to create a space where black creatives can be open and honest with the guarantee of equal rights. So far, they have partnered with companies like Conde Nast(responsible for Vogue), Tommy Hilfiger, and Glossier(popular millennial/gen z beauty brand) who are all dedicated to the advancement of black creativity at all levels. To see the industry professionals finally pushing back on the fashion industry creating their own paths makes it easier to see my dreams as possible. I really hope these big industry names are genuine and serious about helping out us creatives. It would suck for this to be yet another trend.
Upon graduating high school I had made up in my mind three things I would do in my fashion career.
1. Create an eCommerce site (similar to Moda Operandi) inclusively for black luxury brands.
2. Be a major contributor to one of the first HBCU art schools
3. And launch an on-going fashion program in my hometown.
All of these hopes can seem nearly impossible when trying to enter the industry as it is now, but knowing that there are creatives ahead of me constantly changing the landscape makes these goals seem more attainable. So in the spirit of this great stride, I would like to showcase my own version of the Black Parade by listing a few brands of my fellow SCAD peeps and overall black creatives that inspire me in the theme of fashion and beauty! If you want to read my visual booklet here's the link!!