Gap Is Taking Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge to Drive Racial Equity Across Retail

As Black History Month kicks off, news of brands stepping up their efforts in regards to diversity and inclusion is rightfully making waves.

Today, Aurora James has announced that Gap Inc. has joined the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit organization created by the designer to help boost Black brands. It holds retailers accountable as they commit to dedicating 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned labels.

The company, parent to its namesake label as well as Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, is joining the pledge as an “advocacy partner” with a commitment to ensure Black representation across its company, starting with early empowerment programs, which include a focus on internships, externships, apprenticeships and trainings, according to the non-profit. (The 15 Percent Pledge has typically asked multi-brand retailers to dedicate 15% of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses.)

“The disparities we face in this Country will not be solved by one time donations, black boxes, monolithic DEI committees or earnestly written Instagram posts. It will be solved by action, long term commitments and direct accountability to Black women,” James said on Instagram on Monday morning. “This month, I am calling on every CEO to think about legacy, think about people, think about privilege, think about this Country and think about our children. What World do we want to leave behind for our kids? The future deserves more than your symbolic gesture. I am here when you’re ready to talk, we’ve saved you a seat.”

Gap said today that it is also donating $200,000 to the 15 Percent Pledge, adding, “[We are] committing to increasing our pipeline programs by 15 percent with the goal of driving access and opportunity for the Black community within the Gap Inc. family of brands.”

This month, the company is expected to share its 2020 Equality & Belonging Annual Report, which will showcase the company’s ongoing commitment to creating equity. In December, the firm supported Black man and former Gap Inc. employee Casey Goodson Jr. who was fatally shot by police at his home in Columbus, Ohio. “We are mourning the loss of Casey Goodson Jr., a Gap Inc. employee who was fatally shot by police at his home, and we’re in touch with his family to provide support during this time,” the company posted on Twitter, including a link to Goodson’s family GoFundMe page.

Other companies that have signed the 15 Percent Pledge since James launched the nonprofit last summer include Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Bloomingdale’s, Rent the Runway, Sephora, Madewell, Instyle, Vogue, Yelp, West Elm, Blue Mercury, CB2, Medmen and Indigo.

James was named the 2020 Person of the Year by FN for her championing of diversity in fashion. She took on a vital leadership role in the industry, guiding important conversations about racial justice and she is focused on addressing fashion’s critical issues in 2021. Plus, her non-profit is more than hitting quotas, she told FN in December, it’s asking questions and educating companies to become more effective allies to Black brands.

Aurora James
Aurora James
CREDIT: Sage East

“As a Black woman living in America in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and many other people’s senseless murders, that was what I needed in order to feel like corporations were supporting Black people,” she explained. “So I wanted to make a clear ask and I wanted to give people the opportunity to step up and meet me where I am or to quite clearly disappoint me.”

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