Voices of Fashion’s Black Creatives on the Work to Be Done, Part 3 – WWD


In this, the third part of a series, WWD speaks with black creatives both in the U.S. and overseas about their experiences, what the fashion industry and media need to do to address racism and the challenges black people face every day — and what gives them hope in this moment of global protest.

Danielle Williams Eke, 11 Honoré design director

Danielle Williams Eke

Danielle Williams Eke 
Courtesy Photo

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

One challenge is being one of a few if not, the only, black person in industry settings. That ranges from meetings within a company to industry trade shows. As I’ve moved up the ladder into positions of leadership, I’ve seen less and less black people. In that, it makes it harder to have those conversations, because you are the only one.

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

Obviously to support causes and organizations that are directly fighting against these policies and police brutality. That’s where we can use our voice, by contacting local officials and advocating within your area for necessary legislation to combat systemic racism.

Also, a lot of brands say, “we’re not political” — this is not a right or left issue, it’s bipartisan. We should all be talking about it because it’s a human rights issue.

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

Implement diversity in hiring, and that spans both full-time employees as well as who you’re contracting with. Are you bringing in black caterers? Black hair and makeup? If you’ve hired a black model, have you also hired a hairstylist who is well-versed in working with the model’s hair?

Also, one of the hardest things is gaining the opportunities to really become employed. There must be scholarships and internships to help black people to break into the industry. People say, “well, you have no experience.” How can we get the experience without the opportunities?

Representation in imagery is key — specifically a range of representation. There are go-to black models, but there are also plenty of up-and-coming black models. How do brands who are really setting trends break these new models and bring them to the forefront? Especially in the plus-size area of fashion, there should be a range of shapes, sizes, skin tones and hair types.

Support black brands. This is especially important for retailers who buy wholesale. They should be intentionally including black-owned brands and thinking about how to really bring them into the assortment and into the conversation.

What role can the media play?

One of the biggest parts of changing the hearts and the minds of the world starts with allowing people to see the humanity in black people. A major part of that is being able to share the stories of black people. You shouldn’t just see black first — we are husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. I am these things, too.

We must also be able to share the roadblocks that we’ve experienced and be able to show that this path has not been easy, but here is our path forward. By sharing out stories, it also fosters compassion, trust, empathy and helps build relationships.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

The conversation has come to light in a way that can’t be ignored. This isn’t the first time, of course, but brands cannot ignore it right now. A lot of brands are being forced to address their approach internally: who they hire as executives and who their board members are, as well as imagery and how they are thinking about their customer.  Brands need to be thinking about servicing all women and making sure their assortment reflects their customer base.

Right now is the time for people to take this moment and create a plan of action and actually follow through.

Mahisha Dellinger, founder and chief executive officer of Curls

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

As a woman of color, I faced a host of challenges and hurdles. My experience in corporate started off amazing; however, by year four I was targeted for release despite my stellar record and performance by a new manager. This experience at Intel is what ultimately led me to launch Curls to own my financial destiny without fear of being targeted. I also faced discrimination in the banking system and actually I still do to this day. When I launched Curls I couldn’t get a small business loan to save my life, yet my personal credit was stellar. Today, despite having millions in a bank (that I have since stopped banking with) my line of credit was capped at $150,000!  I had millions in that bank!  I face hatred from strangers here in Texas. Just last year I was driving alongside a caucasian man (young and aggressive), rolled his window down and yelled “You n—-r!” The list goes on and on.

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

One simple thing is to hold our top partners to the fire, to take a stand. I have. Target…I need more. Walmart…I need something! CVS…speak up. You all benefit from the black buying power so stand behind us now.

What role can the media play?

Continue to share the stories of the pain, the suffering, the reality…no holds barred. Ask the tough questions. Show programming that will educate the ignorant, ill-informed and hateful people that incite violence and deplorable acts.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment? 

I absolutely love the images and videos of various police departments marching with, standing together, and kneeling before the protestors. This shows me that, one, Not all police officers agree with the approach some take, and two, that there is hope for us yet. Seeing this imagery really did my heart good.

 

Gabrielle Prescod, Stylist

Gabrielle Prescod 
Courtesy

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

Growing up, I existed in predominantly white spaces and they way I acted and what I tolerated was out of fear of not being accepted. I knew I was one of very few (or at times the only) black person and that in and of itself made me a target. I felt the need to conform and cut myself down into easily digestible pieces to fit in. It wasn’t until I was in my mid- to late-20s that I started to unlearn what I thought was necessary behavior. I didn’t have to be a white person’s version of an “acceptable black girl.” But obviously, in trying to unlearn all of that, I still chose to work in fashion and to continue to exist in predominantly white spaces. I have been labeled “aggressive” and been told that I have an “attitude” problem, which is very racially charged language in describing black women but that language is rarely used to talk about someone white.

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

I think the fashion industry needs to do the work internally before we are able to take on things like police brutality. The industry itself is inherently racist because it was built on the premise of white and European beauty standards. Although progress has been made, we still have a really long way to go towards making fashion truly inclusive. The most helpful thing I think the industry as a whole can do now is working on addressing and rectifying racism (in all its forms) in our businesses. And donating!! Put your money where your mouth is.

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

If they are unsure of how to go about changing their company culture, language, or imagery, I think it would be in their best interest to hire black people to help them. It’s not enough to just ask black people what to do and expect them to give the answers. Consulting is a commodity and frankly no one can tell you how to better address a community you are neglecting than a member of that community.

Instagram posts from Essentials by Temi, The Aware Brand, and Karly Loyce.

Instagram posts from Essentials by Temi, The Aware Brand, and Karly Loyce. 

What role can the media play?

Media is one of the most powerful tools we have and when it is used correctly, the impact is palpable. It is disappointing to see how slow it took a lot of companies to respond to what is going on. It almost felt like people were waiting to see if it was worth covering because it might just “go away.” Or worse, they felt like they didn’t have the right people on staff to cover. I know for myself personally, I don’t watch the actual news because I know I’ll never get the real story so I rely heavily on web sites, publications, and social media to tell me the truth about what is going on. If they are silent or afraid to speak up, they are leaving a lot of people uninformed and having to rely on inaccurate reporting. I think that is irresponsible.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I’ve been having a lot of tough conversations with friends and people I work with. A lot of things I’ve never spoken up about because I never felt comfortable enough to say, “hey this really triggering to me,” but I’ve begun to be increasingly more outspoken. Calling out things that aren’t right is coming a lot more easily to me now. For the most part, everyone has been very receptive and has been working on bettering themselves and others around them. It’s a very bizarre feeling of being exhausted and energized at the same time.

 

Dumebi Iyamah, Andrea Iyamah

Dumebi Iyamah 
Courtesy

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

I think it’s important for all fashion brands to get involved, get acting, and get serious about racism. Fashion has always been about expression fueled and inspired by cultures for the culture. I cannot imagine a world of fashion that is separate from addressing social issues that threaten said culture. Andrea Iyamah has always championed diversity and celebrated the beauty of cultures, so we will always speak out against anything that threatens the acceptance and celebration of diversity. The more voices and attention we raise as a people and as an industry the better the chances we have to change policies that threaten the freedom and lives of black people.

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

I believe the fashion industry should begin by accepting diversity across models as well as retail stores encouraging diversity in the fashion brands they carry. It is also important to encourage diversity when hiring for positions across all levels of the fashion industry, from press to fashion brands and retail stores. It all starts from recognizing the deficiency, making a decision to be a part of the change, and actually implementing actions towards celebrating diversity. At Andrea Iyamah, our designs and the content we release is a direct reflection of the diversity across the entire team. We get to learn and listen to different perspectives that are authentic and balanced in consideration when creating designs and our images. If the fashion industry is ready to properly participate, it needs to be ready to diversify, we need to start from within. If there is imbalance and unfairness when hiring, it will be evident in the content that is put out.

What role can the media play?

I appreciate that the media is recognizing and highlighting black designers/brands but they tend to do this in clusters. Each black brand/designer has an authentic message that is beautiful and unique; writers need to pay attention to each brand in its own unique way and more frequently. We also love how the media highlights black designers during Black History Month but what happens beyond? Black brands matter across seasons and need support throughout the year, as any other business does.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

More than anything there is a sense of togetherness in this fight for equality and I couldn’t be happier. There’s still more work to be done but I’m hopeful that advances in the digital world and technology will continue to illuminate the problems and simultaneously bring people together for the purpose of acceptance, love, and unity.

 

Adebayo Okelawal, creative director of Orange Culture 

Adebayo Okelawal 
Courtesy

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

As a Nigerian living in Nigeria and building a business in Nigeria, my battle with racial discrimination may not have been as intense as the battle my black American brothers and sisters have faced in America and face daily! But this does not take away my ability to empathize, especially considering that the fight against racial discrimination is a fight for all of us now and for the future of every black man and woman! I have had scenarios where I have been told that my brand’s production is automatically inferior because I produce in Africa and once a big designer asked me if I was making clothes for mechanics before even seeing my clothes and I was the only black designer in a room full of white designers who were not told the same thing. These are smaller fights in comparison to the fact that people are being taken out of jobs because of their race, or shut down by police immediately because they are black men driving nice cars or seeming to stand in places of success. Part of the problem truly is assuming that all black people face the exact same levels of racism.

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

Listening to what black designers and fashion participants need — it is time to listen.

Hire, include and do not appropriate black culture and not speak up when it is necessary to fight for the race you have appropriated for so many years.

Instagram posts from Cipriana Quann, Write About Now Poetry, and Stella Jean.

Instagram posts from Cipriana Quann, Write About Now Poetry, and Stella Jean. 

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

Hire black people and do not make us a temporary trend — we are not a trend for people to explore when they need to make money.

What role can the media play?

Listen to us and give black writers opportunities to tell black stories.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

We are speaking up! It is now a global fight and it is time for the world to listen.

It is time for us to unite as a race and not divide! We cannot ignore the numerous years of slavery and oppression because we live in a country where everyone is black. Our country was once colonized and to some extent is still colonized, whether it is we like it or not. It is time for us to fight for our freedom as black people and speak up for each other so that our race can be empowered and not stifled by anybody that assumes they are superior because they are of a supposed race.

 

Ifeanyi Nwune, creative director, I.N Official

Ifeanyi Nwune 
Courtesy

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

Lack of funding due to undefined structure and low confidence from investors with regards to the fashion industry in Africa. Lack of visibility as publications deem it a favor featuring your brand even when it deserves to be seen.

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

Everyone needs to be a part of what’s going on in their direct communities and their hometowns. Raising awareness for each cause, donating when possible and while keeping the business alive. In Nigeria there is police brutality and we can only curb the situation by persuading the government to change policies, which most times, never happens.

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

Brands need to stop limiting themselves for their own good. A word is enough.

What role can the media play?

The media should have a change of heart and focus on propagating the positive events of black people around the world. Less of poverty porn conversations, and more actions that help evolve the people.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

My hope comes from the same reason I started working in fashion, which is to change the perspective of the world on African culture and inspire a higher taste level in our direct community. It is an adventurous journey but the destination is in clear sight.

 

Melanese Reid and Charleston Pacius, IWFY

What are the unique challenges you feel have faced in fashion due to being black?

First and foremost, being taken seriously — to both nonblack creatives/industry members and unfortunately at times other black creatives within the industry.

You work hard to create interesting, quality products but most of the time that is completely overlooked due to people’s preconceived notions of you as a group of people and your capabilities.

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

What everyone with access/influence should be doing first is doing the actual work. Not just posting your “support” on Instagram. Racism of any kind is systemic, therefore you as an entity need to take steps to ensure that you are implementing equality within your business life and your personal life, or else it will just be a surface act.

I would say, don’t make this “support” of black creatives a trend. We are human beings with abilities/talents that we bring to the table. This “support” needs to be ongoing and mainly sincere.

Regarding police brutality and what the industry can do — I would say this is an interesting question as this isn’t a fashion industry problem, this is a human [rights problem]. Again, this is all systemic and as a human being working as well as not working within the industry it is your duty that whenever you see something wrong you call it out just like you would call out sexism or any other wrongdoing.

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

Inclusion is key within the workforce — primarily within marketing and product development teams to eliminate the problems we’ve witnessed from brands such as Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, etc.

Having people of color in the room will eliminate these issues from even being presented and also it changes the overall culture of a company.

Instagram posts from Solange Franklin, Mélodie Monrose, and ACLU.

Instagram posts from Solange Franklin, Mélodie Monrose, and ACLU. 

What role can the media play?

The media plays one of the largest roles in this all. You have the power to represent a culture in either a positive or negative light.

The most useful role the media can take on is showcasing new perspectives from POC — as we are not a monolith.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

A newfound awareness. However, this is a newfound awareness for nonblack people as we as a community have known about injustices and inequalities for far too long.

Any additional thoughts?

It would be best for nonblack people to not be so eager to speak — but more willing to listen to the people who have been oppressed for so long.

You would find more insight if that is truly what you are seeking.

 

Tajh Crutch and Archie Clay 3rd, Wear Brims

Tajh Crutch and Archie Clay 3rd

Tajh Crutch and Archie Clay 3rd 
Courtesy

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

Black people face challenges from the time we are born in that we are fighting to be accepted as equals in this world. A unique challenge we have faced due to race is having to prove to others every day that we can build a luxury brand from scratch and be successful. With anything you do, you are going to have doubters, especially when you are two black males starting our own fedora brand. We are not always given the same opportunity or resources as other races, so we have to work 10 times harder. It’s a challenge alone to live in America and simply be black. We are blessed to still be able to provide amazing brims to our supporters and put a smile on their faces when they receive their crowns during these trying times.

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

The fashion industry has the ability to have a powerful voice and influence in this climax. There is a lot that the fashion industry can do, for start companies can use proceeds they receive from their campaigns to give back to help fight the cause. They should use all of their platforms, web, social media, etc. to shed light on the injustice that has been taking place in the world toward black people. We think the major fashion houses should hire more people of color, especially black people, to major key positions within the company, rather than just hiring them to gain off of their ideas, and many times stealing these ideas.

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

Companies will have to initially address the issue in order to enact change and promote inclusion. This may include having those tough, transparent conversations with black employees, getting honest feedback, and then creating a strategy to create a more healthy, inclusive work culture.

What role can the media play?

The media can play a huge role because they control a narrative that will be seen by millions. Media outlets should use their platform to shed light on more positivity in black communities. More often than not, negative stories will be shared. Many news outlets are currently showing looters, but refuse to post or report on the peaceful protests and the real mission of these protests.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

God! The most important thing is to keep faith in him. Our families, friends, and supporters also keep us hopeful during these times. Seeing all of our Kings and Queens come together to stand up for what is right helps keep us going. We want people to always remember to “own your crown” and always walk with your head held high.

Chantel Davis, Castamira Swim

Chantel Davis

Chantel Davis 
Courtesy

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

The projection of the stigma seeded into those looking at us minorities.

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

Strive for equality. We are taught to be racist. Fear based against insurrection from these so-called minorities are ingrained in the fabric of our lives. Fashion is one. The industry should educate and bring back a balance to let others who are culturally different share their skills.

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

One word: Diversity! The beauty of the many faces itself is like art. Kaleidoscopic.

Instagram posts from Art Comes First, Omni Woods, and Fanny Bourdette-Donon.

Instagram posts from Art Comes First, Omni Woods, and Fanny Bourdette-Donon. 

What role can the media play?

Change their frame. And thus it will slowly change the perception of those whose minds are framed by this imbalance over racial disparity.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

The people — blacks, whites, browns — all coming together. They are fighting for justice, they are fighting for their ancestors. And they are fighting for love. There’s so much hope in my heart for changing in the tide for peace amongst the melting pot that is America.

 

Christopher Lowman

Christopher Lowman

Christopher Lowman 
Courtesy

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

Speaking for me and many other black men and women who feel the challenges begin the moment you walk out your front door, the moment you walk in any department store and the moment you come in contact with police. That’s the narrative and pre-judgment we are fighting to change.

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

The fashion industry can contribute by encouraging others to speak up about racist issues or if people are being treated unfairly in the workplace. Implementing strict disciplinary actions. We talk about diversity constantly with campaigns and projects yet the team is nowhere diversified. Create a foundation event geared towards black creatives in the fashion industry to continue to empower this yearly. This is not going to be a one- to two-year thing; we want to continue to spread the message indefinitely.

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

Brands should be more diverse in their staff not just their interns. Being a young black man in my late 20s I come across many black women and men who are extremely talented and skilled with a top notch work ethic but not afforded the opportunities.

What role can the media play? 

The media can play the role of a student by educating themselves on these issues that surround the police and the black community, Ask questions, sit down with fellow black coworkers/friends and ask about their upbringing, ask about the neighborhoods they grew up in, seeking the information is the only way we’ll see positive results.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment? 

At this point my hope is within those who are contributing into making the change within their personal life, their communities and workplace. Learn about your black coworkers/friends then take that information back home to teach the children, brothers or sisters. The foundation has to start at home first.

 

Veronica Webb, model

Veronica Webb

Veronica Webb 
Nina Westervelt/ Shutterstock

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

Being categorically rejected because of being black. That means, to be be abundantly clear, that even if I qualify in every other way for a modeling job, no matter what I can not change the color of my skin. Why does this happen? I have been told to my face numerous times by clients, photographers and agents in these exact words and sometimes a variation thereof. “The brand does not want to be seen as an aspirational symbol that’s acquired by people of color.”

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

For those in front of and behind the camera, please — and I implore you fashion industry — make sure to hire people who are competent and experienced in makeup, hair, lighting, photographing and are capable of creating images both appropriate and equal to those of theIr counterparts of European descent.

For those behind the money that hire the people on set, ask yourself, “How diverse are your c-suite executives? How many black-owned businesses do you interface with in your supply chain? How many interns of color are currently on your roster? Do you promote minorities from within? Finally, are you supporting the communities with your dollar that support you?”

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

Hire the best and the brightest at every level — and not just for content and products specifically aimed at people of color. I went on a job last year and this is a typical experience for me — there were 52 people in the studio. Me and the security guard were the only two people of color on the set. My dear friend, mentor, former WSJ senior staff writer and author of “The End of Fashion” and “Highjacking the Runway” Teri Agins brought to my attention efforts at Gucci and LVMH [that] “are among those working to diversify by hiring black people at every level — including in decision-making executive roles.” I am still baffled by how in 2020, companies need full-time consultants. We still have so little exposure between people of European descent and nonwhites that full-time consultants are required to identify racially offensive merchandise? Education starts at home and continues at school. That’s somewhere we can all start.

Instagram posts from Mobolaji Dawodu, KLUR, and I WEIGH.

Instagram posts from Mobolaji Dawodu, KLUR, and I WEIGH. 

What role can the media play? 

End tokenism. Begin by starting to build an extensive database of people of color — makeup artists, retailers, designers, models, photographers, fashionista consumers, influencers, socialites and celebrities to feature as sources and experts to quote in every story — not just on designated stories about black experience. Familiarity breeds a comfort level.

Media outlets — mainstream fashion magazines, TV and newspapers — should hire more black people and Latinos to work as reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, and also on the publishing side, editors, in particular, to help shape coverage and selection of stories that are published. Hollywood, please give us more movies that reflect the richness, the triumphs and many of the true horrors of the African American experience. The complexity of our contribution to this nation and the world has yet to truly be told understood by the world. Feature more black intellectual discourse on the right and the left.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment? 

Technology is the foe of injustice. The protests never would have happened without video evidence of the lynchings of Ahmed Aubrey and George Floyd. The world is waking up to our responsibilities as citizens now more than ever. I’m thankful for people of all races and nationalities who care about and are invested in justice, human rights and preserving our planet.

 

Pierre Ellis, development | management women’s agent at Wilhelmina

Pierre Ellis 
Courtesy

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

Being a young black male in this industry presents many challenges. There was a lot of back-end commentary I had to endure from past employers, receiving casting breakdowns that are specifying no dark skin models, talking to young black models and explaining why they don’t have the same opportunities as Caucasian models! I keep saying this, but these uncomfortable conversations need to start happening and action needs to take place!

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

The fashion industry should be donating to the cause. Should be learning and having uncomfortable conversations amongst themselves to bring change!

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

Hire more black creatives, support more diversity in the workforce. Agents should make sure their black models are being heard, valued and loved. This is not a trend we are black 365 days out of the year!

What role can the media play?

The media keep calling the racist BS out! It’s helping!!

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

I have some of the best nonblack friends! What makes me hopeful is that they are out fighting for our existence and supporting the cause. This revolution needs to happen so we can better ourselves, learn and continue loving and supporting one another! We are tired! Black lives matter.

 

Debra Shaw, model, Red Models

Debra Shaw

Debra Shaw 
Courtesy

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

These are the three challenges I have faced often: to be accepted as a woman, a woman whose skin is black, a black woman born in America, living in Europe.

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

The fashion industry must support talent based on merit. This has not happened. There is an absolute problem with supporting black and brown people on the outside and the inside of this industry. We are stripped and appropriated, but the opportunity in large part does not come to us. We have to create it on our own, which is also empowering.

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?

The ratio in fashion is extremely unbalanced. It would be brilliant if more black and brown women, non-binary, transgender and men are hired everywhere in fashion (the corporate side, production, design, styling, management and photography.) Actually, all the different positions in fashion.

What role can the media play?

The brands, agencies, etc., must now be conscious of the problem and change the script. Black people can no longer be asked to do this; we have been subject to discrimination at all levels and the problem must be solved so we can move forward as human beings.

Instagram posts from Norwegian Rain, Hanifa Official, and Indya Moore.

Instagram posts from Norwegian Rain, Hanifa Official, and Indya Moore. 

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment? 

These radical challenges we are experiencing is shaking things up and bringing more awareness, When one is aware a shift starts to happen and then change. Hopefully it will be a colorful change, diversified!

 

Zerina Akers, stylist

Zerina Akers, Stylist

Zerina Akers, Stylist 
Courtesy

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

Plenty. At times my opinion was second guessed. My voice needed validation. I have had to work three times harder and longer, coupled with the typical getting followed unnecessarily in department stores and boutiques. Purses even clutched at times.

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

Speaking out as an entity to local legislation is the first step against fighting police brutality.

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 important for these larger companies to make sure their teams are diverse. The larger brands need to start by assessing their own policies and practices internally. A conference room filled with nonblack people cannot begin to make decisions on how to contribute to the cause and how to address racial issues of injustice. It is also too much pressure to only have one (or even three) and burden them with consulting on how to appease the black community and complete their daily tasks — trust me, they don’t get paid enough.

The fact that I have to make this next statement saddens me: Diverse representation is important. Inclusive ad campaigns are vital. These kinds of visuals not only empower us as a people but softens the mind’s eye of those that may have a distorted vision of the world around them. At the end of the day no matter what your “target market” may be, money is green and is not turned away at the register. (Unless you’re at Hermès.)

Additionally, there has to be space made overall for more black creators. This is arguably the most inclusive era of fashion and yet we still have so far to go. There are many brands that can be called out. Financially supporting organizations dedicated to fighting for racial justice and equality as well as supporting up-and-coming talent is the best way to uplift the people.

What role can the media play?

The media is a double-edged sword. This is why we need the sound voices to be as loud as possible. The media can be helpful but we’re used to it being harmful. Social media, on the other hand, has really allowed many to be heard.

Instagram posts from Phlemuns and Essentials by Temi.

Instagram posts from Phlemuns and Essentials by Temi. 

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

There is an uprising of voices supporting and sharing black businesses and it is wonderful to see. I created a new Instagram page just to keep up with it all — @Black.Owned.Everything. Here I’ve decided to shine some light on black-owned beauty, fashion, food, health and home businesses that people can constantly support.

 

Stephen Burrows

Stephen Burrows

Stephen Burrows 
Clint Spaulding/WWD

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

Being termed as African American, when I am an American was a big hurdle to me, when I started out in the Sixties. I decided to trust in God that he would make it right for me and he did in 1973 when the “[Battle of] Versailles” fashion event termed the U.S. team as just the Americans.

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

The fashion industry should fight racism and police misconduct with a change of mind-set to treat all as equals. As we are all in this reality together, no one should be put in the “I can’t breathe” state we are in.

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

We also need minority-owned manufacturing businesses to balance out this sharing ideology to even the global playing field.

What role can the media play?

Be truthful and open to all. They, as a whole, were more embracing of new talent in the Sixties and Seventies, when diversity was abundantly embraced by the media than they are today. [Now] the biggest share of content lies with big brands and those who can advertise the most. [They are] taking over almost all the content.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

The end of the Trump era would be most inspiring.

 

Shannon Stokes, stylist

Shannon Stokes, Stylist

Shannon Stokes, Stylist 
Courtesy

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

As a creative that has worked on both sides of the business as both a designer and a stylist I have seen how race plays into how your work is received. During my time as a designer of a fashion collection my work was reviewed by high level white fashion editors in the business, but it was still repeatedly recommended that instead I reach out to other black fashion editors for ongoing support. That made making inroads into the business at that time prove to be nearly impossible as there were very few black fashion editors existing, if at all.

In my work as a stylist you are often not even in the conversation to be considered for work on models, film actors, and music artists who are not black. There’s also ignorance from fashion brands about new, up-and-coming black actors and musicians, which results in resistance when it comes to lending to them. They will wait until they become household names to support them, yet their white counterparts will receive support [after] one single or film role into their careers.

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

The Industry should be simply trying to enable and reflect the changes they want to see in the world at large. Enabling by funding organizations who are truly doing the work to bring about changes at policy as well as community levels. Reflecting change by spearheading true diversity in positions of leadership across the industry and holding chronic abusers of their positions in the fashion business accountable once complaints are received and patterns of behavior are observed.

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

The only way to enact change from within is to select directors who have that as their goal. There is no shortage of brilliance amongst black creatives so they should be seeking more diverse hires and collaborators to work within their companies and to partner with on imagery and design. This always results in better fashion all around.

What role can the media play? 

Fashion media is constantly fixated on reporting on the same artists, actors, and creatives, the “notable names” in the business, which results in stagnancy in their coverage. While they may even feel that they are promoting diversity by covering them, those reporting in the media need to dig deeper to find more undiscovered gems and highlight them.

Instagram posts from Botter Paris and The Hinton Group.

Instagram posts from Botter Paris and The Hinton Group. 

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

Fashion throughout the ages has served as a reflection of the times. My hope is that while we are seeing a great deal of upheaval and change for black people in society at large, perhaps those within fashion will have a desire to look inward and embrace the same types of change in order to right some of the wrongs it has committed in the past.

Pat Cleveland 
PHOTO COURTESY

Pat Cleveland

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

I’m a little bit of everything but I’m considered African American. Because one drop is the spice in the soup, you know? So I am an African American and Swedish combination. I have been on the border of all kinds of racial discrimination situations. I feel I have been very lucky because I have a very good attitude about humanity in general. When I see people have not been educated, traveled and have not partaken in the cultures, I am very forgiving by nature. I say, “Well, they just don’t know. And people have fear.” We’re not poison, we’re just human. We’re not going to hurt you. In other words, just open your arms and let you hear our heart beat. I’ve always felt that people can hear my soul and know that I am a good person.

But I have incidents in New Jersey where the police have come after me for nothing. One night I was driving home not far from Cherry Hill after doing a job in New York. At that time, the police were doing horrid things to young women in cars. I was driving along slowly, my daughter was with me. I’m considered black and then they followed us without putting their lights on or pulling us over. It got really scary…at some point, they put the lights on to stop. Before I knew it, I was arrested. Five police cars surrounded my car at gunpoint. I said to my daughter, “Keep your phone on. Call Daddy. I’m putting my hands up. Show your white face so they don’t kill us.” Then they slammed me face down onto the hood of the car, arrested me and had me at gunpoint. That was about 2006. They just slammed me into the jail, I was handcuffed to a wall in a cell for hours and hours before anyone could get me out of there. You know what that was for? It was the rookie police and they just stopped me to find out who I was. It was very frightening. They released me some hours later. It’s a good thing I know how to meditate. I just took it as a meditation moment. I was harassed really badly. When we first came to America around 2004, my daughter’s friend’s boyfriend was shot in the back by police. He was a football player, he was African American. He had dreadlocks and he was going through a moment of epiphany so he ran to the church to cut his dreadlocks off. Someone called the police. They Tasered him. They beat him up. He was running for his life and they shot and killed him. He was only 17 years old. That’s how I came into America after living in Europe.

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

The thing about the fashion world is they are all lovers, dreamers and creative people. They are not bad people. They don’t really have anything to do with all this horrid stuff that is going on. What they can do is just stand up and say something like, “We don’t like this. We’re going to keep creating and using people of all colors because that’s who we are. We are the palette of humanity. We don’t appreciate hatred towards people, animals or anything.” We just have to be conscious of what we put out for the future. What they need to do is inspire other people to realize, “Hey, we don’t stand for this. We’re the fashion world and we don’t take this. Our vision for the future is love and fun and being gorgeous. We’re here to create beauty.” Where does beauty start? It starts in the seed of compassion.

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

Brands should have mini divisions within the companies. You should delegate, as we do any way in fashion. We have different sections of lifestyle, for instance. Lifestyle and branding seem to be very important right now. That’s been going on for a while. There needs to be opportunities for all kinds of people. There is not only one lifestyle. Everything blends in together. They should try to blend the lifestyles. The story of the future is right now, you can see that everybody wants to hold hands and unite. There are so many talented people out there that need to be given a chance. Sometimes a company like Target brings in one designer. More of that is needed. People have to have their own responsibility. Everybody has to be strong. We are kind of on our own…hopefully, people will start to have a smile in the morning and will be able to socialize again. Fashion is built on socializing. All of these artists are so inspired by international flavors and cultures. We are just a big bowl of crazy fruit salad now, with some nuts thrown in. We just have to take the sweetness of it and try to illuminate that part of joy in our production. The generosity of the big companies is so important. We need to dress people who can’t afford it. Fashion is all about dignifying yourself and appreciating yourself and dressing to be protected. We need to create good things that don’t hurt people’s bodies, like fabrics that don’t take away your energy.

What role can the media play? 

Media is fabulous. I love the media. The thing is we’re not building walls against each other. We’re opening spaces. Everything is so fluid and present and now. We have the ability to know the truth. What we do in journalism and in any kind of expression is [look for] how divine can we be and find the best part of the story even though there is this dark dirty energy going around. It’s not even nourishing dirt. How do we get to the good nourishing soil of who we are? We are writers and photographers. Where’s the beauty in this ugly moment? We’re waking up to this not being a good situation. We need to have a beautiful life from the heart. Everybody knows something is wrong. And we’re conscious because media is telling the truth. The truth is we’re all born with this beautiful human nature and this is what we need to focus on. Our human nature is divine, not the kind that hurts other people.

What makes you feel hopeful at this moment?

Every time I take a breath I just hope. Hope is so expanding. When I get up in the morning, I light a candle for the whole world. Every time I chant, I meditate or do anything, I think that I’m embracing every energy that is possible to send it out so that others know they have it too. People in fashion are very generous with their energy and their concern. Some people have more than others but whatever little bit they have, they try to make the world a better place.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *