As the country observes the start of Black History Month, here’s how retail players are bringing more attention to the many contributions — fashion and otherwise — of the Black community.
To further its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Belk is once again expanding its list of vendors with the addition of more than a dozen diverse-owned brands across home, apparel, beauty, and accessories. This Black History Month also marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of Belk’s Culture Shop, a curated boutique on Belk.com that supports and celebrates the culture of underrepresented communities year-round, which includes multiple Black-owned brands. The initiative was created in 2021 by Belk’s Black business resource group, B.R.I.G.H.T., in partnership with its director of diversity and inclusion, to build upon the diversity of the retailer’s product offerings and vendors. “The Culture Shop goes beyond category growth and new offerings,” said Belk CEO Nir Patel in a statement. “It’s about the creators and visionaries behind the brands and the communities they represent. We’re extremely proud of the expansion of our inventory, and will continue to actively add new diverse brands that best represent our customers and communities.”
Centric Brands, which licenses Steve Madden, Frye, and Jessica Simpson accessories among others, has teamed up with the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund (BTDF) to provide scholarships to fund Black students studying to enter the fashion and/or footwear industry. The partnership includes Centric providing $10,000 in scholarship funds to support the critical mission of the BTDF, reinforcing the company’s ongoing efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive workforce. Centric Brands will be sponsoring 20 full scholarships, collaborating to highlight BTDF’s community of talent to create a direct pipeline to internship and early career development opportunities within Centric Brands, and profiling the BTDF team and the scholarship recipients across Centric Brands’ channels. “We are very excited to establish the partnership with Alicia and the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund,” said Elyse Kretz, VP of talent and culture at Centric Brands. “This partnership will provide us the opportunity to bring diverse top talent into our organization to build their careers here at Centric Brands. It will also open new future possibilities that align with our Diversity and Talent priorities.”
Fred Segal is teaming up again with the Black in Fashion Council to launch the second edition of the Season Zero design contest presented by Mastercard. Initially launched in 2020, the annual competition offers early-stage up-and-coming designers with the funding, mentorship, and retail platform to help kick-start their brand. The competition is accepting submissions from now through Feb. 28 nationwide and will be open to all designers and creatives without a current retail footprint. One grand prize winner will have their collection produced, courtesy of Mastercard, showcased and sold at their own pop-up space at Fred Segal’s Flagship Sunset Blvd. location and online at fredsegal.com on Sept. 1. In addition, the winner will receive 1:1 mentorship with representatives from Fred Segal and Mastercard, as well as a $10,000 grant and Digital Doors Toolkit from Mastercard to help further grow and digitally enhance their business. The winner will follow in the footsteps of Connor McKnight who was named the inaugural Season Zero winner in 2020.
Gymshark has partnered with media and marketing agency Obsidianworks on a campaign that highlights local leaders who are uplifting and championing Black culture and communities. The video clips aim to tell the stories of everyday heroes Jason Wilson (founder of Detroit-based nonprofit The Yunion), Wesley Hamilton (founder of inclusive fitness training-focused organization Disabled But Not Really) and Mel Douglas (founder of wellness-driven Black Womens Yoga Collective). Gymshark and Obsidianworks selected a Black crew of talent to create the campaign, including videographer, Bexx Francois and photographer, Justin “Jay3” Jerrod, among several others. “It’s so rare to be surrounded by so many people who look like me on sets. I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to come together in this way,” Douglas said via statement.
Harlem’s Fashion Row
Harlem’s Fashion Row will host its fourth annual Black History Month Summit, titled “Fashion’s Promise,” virtually on Feb. 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. With Prada as the title sponsor, the summit seeks to shed light on the luxury fashion community as some of the world’s most recognizable brands answer the question: Are retailers making a difference? Following a year where many brands made a commitment to break down barriers and work on ending systemic racism in the workplace, Harlem’s Fashion Row looks to explore their commitment. The summit is part of an ongoing effort to bring diversity and the inclusion of designers of color to the forefront of the fashion industry. Among the companies participating are LVMH, Capri Holdings, PVH Corp., Savage x Fenty and Nike. Tickets are $350.
The retailer has launched its “Black History. Black Brilliance” campaign that will highlight Black-owned brands such as Buttah, Harlem Candle Co., Healthy Roots and Nude Barre. Macy’s will also run a round-up donation campaign in stores and online, with proceeds benefitting the United Negro College Fund for students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “Acknowledging and honoring the history, resilience, accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans, is core to Macy’s mission of building a brighter future for our colleagues, customers and communities,” said Shawn Outler, Macy’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
Nordstrom has launched a series of campaigns for Black History Month. To highlight its diverse community of staff and consumers, the retailer is engaging with communities and highlighting Black-owned brands, Black food culture and stories among its Black employees. Nordstrom is also increasing monetary contributions to organizations that promote anti-racism. The campaign builds on Nordstrom’s previously announced commitments to the Black community, which include a series of diversity and inclusion targets to hit by 2025 such as increasing Black and Latinx representation in people-manager roles by at least 50%, having at least 50% of interns and early-career employees come from underrepresented populations, and introducing anti-racism and anti-bias training for those in customer-facing roles.
The North Face
The North Face has partnered with mountaineers Sophia Danenberg and Phil Henderson to highlight Black climbers this Black History Month. The campaign, “New Heights with Black joy” highlights Black joy and overcoming adversity, on and off the mountain. The two climbers, together with the North Face, have launched an apparel collection that celebrates their achievements.
Tommy Hilfiger’s ‘People’s Place’ Program has teamed up with Harlem’s Fashion Row to launch the “New Legacy Challenge,” a new contest that aims to create increased access to mentorship and resources for emerging Black designers. Following a virtual design showcase with the top 12 applicants, three finalists were chosen to move on to the last round. Each finalist, with the guidance of a Tommy Hilfiger mentor, will reimagine six iconic prep styles including the hoodie, the spring varsity jacket, and the polo. The designers will present their final collections to a panel of jury members in March, which will be followed by an exclusive event to announce and celebrate the winning designer. The event will also include a premiere of the New Legacy Challenge docu-series, directed by award-winning filmmaker Luchina Fisher. The finalists include Johnathan Hayden, Clarence Ruth, and Megan Smith. In September 2021, designers were invited to apply to the New Legacy Challenge and share their interpretation of contemporary prep – a style that has always been at the heart of Tommy Hilfiger’s DNA. The winner of the New Legacy Challenge will receive a grant for $20,000 and the opportunity to co-design a capsule collection alongside the Tommy Hilfiger design team.
Qurate Retail Group is celebrating Black History Month in a big way. To start, QVC and HSN are donating $100,000 to the Black Women’s Health Imperative as part of the month-long celebration. Customers can also make direct donations to the BWHI from QVC.com and HSN.com. In addition, QVC and HSN are highlighting Black-owned brands as part of the company’s Small Business Spotlight program. Approximately 12 Black-owned businesses outside of Qurate Retail Group’s vendor base will share their brand stories live on-air on QVC and HSN or on QVC2 and will be featured in a special, month-long event on Zulily.
Saks has teamed up with designers LaQuan Smith and Dani Evans of Monrowe to create digital content in which Smith and Evans highlight some of their favorite Black designers and reflect on the important relationship of community and progress, nurturing mental health and finding joy in Black history and excellence. The content will be featured on saks.com and on Saks’ social media throughout the month of February. The retailer’s New York City flagship will also feature a window installation dedicated to Black History Month from now through Feb. 14 showcasing Black designers like Kimberly Goldson, Wales Bonner, LaQuan Smith, Tove, Frederick Anderson, and more. Additionally, the Saks Foundation will make a $60,000 donation to the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM).
Target rolled out a campaign to highlight Black employees, designers and entrepreneurs, continuing its “Black Beyond Measure” marketing campaign. The collection will include a range of exclusive products across multiple categories including apparel, accessories, home, beauty, books, food, toys and more. The assortment will also include designs from the three winners of Target’s inaugural HBCU Design Challenge, which allowed students from historically Black colleges and universities to submit designs to be included in Target’s Black History Month collection. Target will also offer t-shirts made from cotton sourced from fifth-generation Black family farm Bridgeforth Farms. The theme of the collection is “Creating Our Own Future.” As such 86% of the collection was created by or designed with Black businesses or designers.
Ugg has teamed up with Tremaine Emory, also known as Denim Tears, on a new collaboration. According to Ugg, Emory’s collaboration with the brand is a deeply personal exploration of his great-grandmother Onia’s Black Seminole heritage, incorporating inspiration found in associated iconography and craft techniques from the southeastern United States. For the collection, Emory reimagines two Ugg styles through his unique historical lens. The Ugg x Denim Tears Tasman Onia is crafted from signature suede and sheepskin with florally adorned panels and finished with whipstitch detailing around the collar. And the Ugg x Denim Tears Classic Onia adds embroidery and beading to the signature suede and sheepskin style. Ugg will also donate a total of $50,000 to two nonprofits – the Backstreet Cultural Museum and the Guardians Institute – which both prioritize the preservation of traditions long held, but seldom told. Emory intends for these donations to give back to the community that helped springboard his research into his own rich cultural history.