After weeks of movement in the fashion and media industries as reports of racial discrimination and lack of representation in companies have come out — amidst the larger backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement — celebrity stylists Law Roach, Jason Rembert, Lacy Redway and more than 30 other Black fashion and beauty creatives announced Tuesday morning the formation of the Black Fashion & Beauty Collective (BFB Collective).
The not-for-profit organization is the first of its kind to represent Black creatives in both the fashion and beauty industries, bringing together fashion stylists, hair stylists and makeup artists for the goal of influencing forward progression in those industries and in the Black community.
Initially born from a dinner that Roach, Redway and Rembert organized in 2019, on the Sunday night before the Met Gala, the formation of the collective took on an urgency in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, as protests took place around the world and fashion brands, media outlets and industry organizations scrambled to take a stand — and deal with the fallout of statements that may not have reflected their historical treatment of Black professionals.
“Our plans have always been to form a community of us, of voices that are very influential in the industry and can really see change happen,” Redway told FN. “We were in the similar position that we are in now, in that we were just really fed up with not having proper representation in so many areas in our industries, and we were all fighting similar fights but fighting them individually.”
One of the organization’s main goals will be fundraising for its Black Fashion and Beauty Business Relief Fund. While it is still in the process of receiving its 501(c)(3) accreditation, the BFB Collective is partnering with the nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City to use its founding pledge of $25,000 from Roach plus additional funds raised in 2020 to provide immediate support for businesses affected as a result of the high tension surrounding police brutality. The initiative details a special focus on businesses not protected by insurance companies or whose insurance claims were denied. The announcement comes as a study from Stanford University’s Institute for Economic Policy Research reports that more than 40 percent of Black-owned businesses are not expected to survive the pandemic.
“We want to inject capital into businesses whose storefronts may have suffered as a result and help them get back on their feet and get their businesses back up,” said celebrity stylist and BFB Collective president Rachel Johnson.
In addition to the fund, the collective will be working with brands and companies within the fashion and beauty space to assist in diversity and inclusion.
“One of our initiatives is to create resources that these corporations can tap into (to see) where they may have blind spots and inequality within their own organizations,” said Johnson. “A lot of these organizations do not have Black representation at the executive level, they do not have Black representation in the decision making rooms. We not only do we want our voices to be present on the creative level, we want to make sure our voices are actually making decisions to enact change inside. We are excited to be using our voices to amplify not only the racial injustices that we as black men and women experience in the fashion and beauty industries but also the solutions that we can enact to bring a more level playing field to these industries.”
On June 4, the CFDA announced its own equality initiatives, which include an in-house employment program that will place Black creatives throughout the industry, a mentorship program and diversity and inclusion training available to all members. On June 15, more than 250 Black professionals responded with an open letter called the Kelly Initiative (named after Black American designer Patrick Kelly), denouncing the efforts and putting forth a four-point plan that includes an industry census, headhunting and recruitment accountability, annual data disclosure and the creation of the Kelly List, a curation of top-tier talent across an array of fashion fields.
“…The CFDA has allowed exploitative cultures of prejudice, tokenism, and employment discrimination to thrive, unbridled by the sort of watchdog intervention expected of an industry umbrella organization,” stated the letter, whose signatures included creative consultants like Jerome LaMaar and Tamu McPherson, designers Victor Glemaud, Sergio Hudson and Romeo Hunte as well as publicists like Nate Hinton and Kevin McIntosh Jr., plus a number of editors across publishing companies. Noticeably absent were the signatures of CFDA board members Tracy Reese, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Virgil Abloh, Carly Cushnie, the last three of whom were elected to the board in 2019.
“I can’t talk enough about unity. We all have the same goal in mind. At the end of the day it’s just to be treated equal,” said stylist Kesha McLeod, who will serve as the BFB Collective’s treasurer on a board of 12 members that also include stylists Jason Bolden, Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald, Apuje Kalu, Jessica Smalls, Ashunta Sheriff-Kendricks and Nai’vasha.
“We are stronger in numbers,” added McLeod.