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FIT Establishes Social Justice Center With Help from Calvin Klein, Versace and Coach Parent Companies

PVH Corp., Capri Holdings Limited, and Tapestry, Inc. are coming together on a new higher education initiative centered around diversity.

In fact, the three fashion conglomerates have each donated $1 million to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in order to help establish the Social Justice Center at FIT (SJC), a first-of-its-kind higher education initiative “established to increase opportunity and accelerate social equity within the creative industries for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community,” according to a press release.

Separately, the college noted that G-III Apparel Group made the establishing gift to the SJC Scholarship Fund, which already has reached more than $1.5 million in contributions. Other industry leaders have pledged support, including Carolina Herrera, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Saks, Target and The Fragrance Foundation.

According to a statement from FIT, the SJC at FIT will aim to nurture a “racially and ethnically diverse talent pipeline,” from the middle-school classroom to the executive level, that is focused on breaking down systemic barriers and ensuring that BIPOC professionals achieve their full potential.

The SJC at FIT will do this by providing scholarships for middle-school, high-school, and college students. This support includes pre-college instruction that will help position youth for success by preparing them for college-level study. Once the students are in college, pathways to advancement will be offered through internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships provided by SJC partners. Numerous scholarships are already available, including the Social Justice Center Endowed Scholarship, the Amsale Aspire Initiative, the Art Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship, the Black Student Illustrators Graduation Award, and the Prada Scholarship at FIT, among others.

The school also noted that the SJC will promote industry mentorship programs for employees of color already in the workforce, share best practices, establish authentic and relevant networks for BIPOC professionals, develop mid-management advancement programs, and commit ongoing efforts to diversify leadership from entry level to the executive suite and beyond.

Jeffrey Tweedy, former president and CEO of Sean John and an FIT alumnus, has been appointed special advisor to FIT President Dr. Joyce Brown to help build and expand the center. A search is underway to name an executive director of the SJC, and an industry advisory council of 16 executives has been established “to counsel, collaborate, and help measure progress in achieving equity within the creative industries,” according to a statement.

“A powerful and much overdue dialogue was sparked last year around diversity and inclusion, which led to a sobering realization that there was much work to do within the creative industries and at FIT as well,” said Dr. Brown in a statement. “Since then, we have been building a strong foundation for the Social Justice Center at FIT. I am grateful for the early support from PVH, Capri Holdings, Tapestry, G-III Apparel Group, and FIT’s other charter partners. They have demonstrated a formidable commitment to these efforts, and I am confident that the center is poised to effect meaningful change.”

Further, Dr. Brown noted, “What we have seen thus far are companies or colleges whose focus is either on the workplace or on education. The focus for the Social Justice Center at FIT is on the whole individual. We will intervene early with BIPOC youth so they can make informed decisions about their future and the careers they might choose to pursue. While they are in college, we will provide exposure to the inner workings of industry as well as concentrated support and training. Our partners in industry will then mentor, guide, and provide opportunities to accelerate their career potential. “

“It is our obligation at FIT to mobilize our resources and our network to remove existing obstacles so that racially and ethnically diverse students can be recognized for their value in all of the creative fields, including fashion, beauty, interior design, graphic design, advertising, and communications,” she said.

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