Harlem’s Fashion Row CEO Brandice Daniel has been a key advocate for designers of color since establishing the agency in 2007. On Wednesday in New York, Daniel took the stage at the 2022 FN CEO Summit to talk about obstacles along the way. The biggest challenge? Getting people to talk about race.
“It wasn’t just editors and executives that didn’t want to talk about it. Black designers also didn’t want to talk about it,” Daniel told Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, founder of Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design. “That was one of the most challenging pieces in the very beginning. So I think the hardest thing was for me to really stay true to the vision.”
Daniel added that having uncomfortable conversations is essential for improving inclusivity in the fashion industry.
“It’s going into spaces and places where people don’t look like you, where you may not know anyone there. I think that’s really important,” she said. “When brands start to work with us, the first thing I say is to come to our designers’ retreat and when people come into that space, it’s all Black designers. Go into those spaces and soak it up. Because those are the types of experiences that really help innovation.”
As part of its mission to champion designers of color, Harlem’s Fashion Row has worked with major corporate partners including Target, Macy’s, Covergirl, Pandora jewelry, Coca-Cola and many more. And its New York Fashion Week events have grown to be one of the most anticipated of the season.
Edwards is also doing his part in creating a bridge between brands and designers, recently launching the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, Michigan’s first and only HBCU focused on design. Last month, Nike announced that it will invest $3 million into the school over the next three years.
Said Edwards: “I am a coach and mentor, talent scout, I am still a teacher. These kids need mentorship. Making sure that we care, that they matter, is critical and front and center [of the work we do].”
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