In honor of Black History Month 2019, FN is celebrating African-American movers and shakers in footwear and fashion by recognizing their accomplishments and inviting them to share insight into how the industry can make bigger diversity strides.
Harrison T. Crite may have come from humble beginnings in Memphis, Tenn., but the celebrity stylist and image consultant has quickly built a name for himself in the ultracompetitive New York City market.
In the near decade since he made his New York Fashion Week debut as a fashion assistant and then landed an internship at BET’s “106 and Park,” Crite has built up quite the résumé. His client roster includes talent for E!, ABC and NBC, and his avant garde styling has appeared on the covers and pages of several magazines including The Source, Vulkan, Made and Afropolitian.
But keeping high-profile celebs in eye-catching looks alone isn’t the only thing keeping Crite busy. When he’s not creating striking looks for the stars, he’s doing graphic design work and serves as the creative director for the men’s accessory web store Axcexx.com.
Here, Crite shares how he’s become a go-to stylist and why its crucial for African-Americans to support one another.
What made you want to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
“I’ve always had a passion for fashion. While obtaining my bachelor’s degree in marketing, I never knew that I could really make money from fashion outside of retail. I’m born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. The shoe industry is just not as prevalent down South as it is on the East or West Coast. I always thought I needed to have a business background in order to make money. After gaining more from following the careers of people that inspired me and watching this reality show on Oxygen called ‘House of Glam,’ I decided to move to NYC and start my journey on being a key player in the industry. I broke in the industry by securing internships through Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, from referrals and getting much-needed firsthand experience on working behind the scenes.”
Looking back on your career, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
“I’m most proud of gaining international clients. Due to this one key turn in my career, I’ve been able to travel the world — providing me the opportunity to expand my brand. Social media has been very instrumental for this exposure.”
As a minority, what has been the biggest obstacle you faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
“Seeking representation. The majority of us, generally, start out as freelancers. There comes a point in your career when you seek that next level. When the accreditation and notoriety is there, you desire your tax bracket to reflect your talent. As a celebrity wardrobe stylist, I noticed [that I was] getting to that next level [when] I was dealing with clients’ managers, agents and accountants. I then knew it was time for me to step things up on the business side. If I had to talk with your manager about securing a rate, then I needed your people to talk to my people so that I am perceived as a professional with a management team, as well. This aided me in procuring the top-level fees set by my industry’s standards. This releases me to be the creative for the client rather than handling day-to-day business operations such as flights, hotel accommodations, invoicing, logistics. However, the quest to obtain knowledge on putting my team at an advantage was not easy. It was very challenging as a minority, who had majority African-American clients, to find a agent who I felt was qualified and willing to take me on as a client.”
What is the biggest challenge African-Americans face in the shoe and fashion industry?
“One of the biggest challenges we as African-Americans face in the shoe industry is not creating more wealth for our own community. It’s no secret that the black dollar has the most purchasing power in the fashion industry among any other race. However, while we’re making everyone else rich, we don’t have the representation on a global scale to do the same for our own people. It’s frustrating when most brands take from the innate influence of the black aesthetic, but when it’s time to have a seat at the table to decide the forecast of new collections, designs and trends, we are hardly anywhere to be found on those deciding levels. Just recently, Spike Lee urged African-Americans to protest brands like Prada and Gucci, who we are heavily known for wearing, until they hire more black designers.”
What is the best advice you would offer other African-Americans looking to break into the fashion and footwear industry?
“The best advice I could give other African-Americans is to help each other progress. This is simply done by extending opportunities to your own. Don’t think you’re diminishing your light for helping someone else’s shine. What’s meant for you is for you — simply helping someone who looks like you takes nothing away from you. I’ve personally witnessed other races progress by partnering to elevate each other’s careers. As a whole, we haven’t done the best job with this concept. It speaks more to you as a creative in this industry to desire to see more people of color at the same tables versus being the one person of color that made it.”
What specific steps should footwear and fashion firms take to make their teams more diverse?
“The best way to have a diverse team is including people of all races. Having one African-American on the team is not diverse, especially if the culture of the product is influenced by the African-American community. To break the barriers of success in the workplace, all representations deserve to have a voice, as footwear has no race. The team should reflect the consumer.”
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