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Nordstrom Teams With The Folklore Group to Grow Black-Owned Brands

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Outside Nordstrom's men's flagship store in NYC.

Nordstrom has teamed with The Folklore Group as part of the retailer’s commitment to build a more equitable marketplace and reduce barriers to access for diverse suppliers.

Through The Folklore Connect platform, Nordstrom’s buyers will be better able to identify and engage with wholesale fashion and lifestyle brands founded by Black, Latinx, Asian and other people of color, as well as brands in emerging markets. Nordstrom will also invite its brand partners to join The Folklore Connect for increased visibility in the industry.

Nordstrom is one of the largest retailers to partner with The Folklore, which also works with retailers such as Revolve, Shopbop and Urban Outfitters.

“Nordstrom has a long history of curating new and emerging brands to offer an ever evolving and relevant product assortment for our customers. They expect that we deliver a sense of inspiration and discovering with high-quality products from diverse brands,” said Brian Roberts, vice president of brand programs at Nordstrom. “We are grateful for our partnership with The Folklore Group, which provides us with additional resources to discover and connect with new-to-Nordstrom brands in support of our ambitions to address marketplace equity.”

The Folklore Group, which launched in 2018, is a commerce company that aims to empower diverse brands in emerging markets. In 2022, The Folklore Group launched The Folklore Connect to provide software for diverse and sustainable brands to manage and scale their wholesale businesses and retailers with a marketplace to discover and show these brands, which have historically been geographically or racially marginalized from connecting with global retailers. Currently, the Connect platform has more than 100 brands including Ashya, Nalebe and Vavvoune.

“As a lifelong Nordstrom customer, I have long admired and shopped their incredible curation of products, and I’m excited to be teaming up with the legacy retailer in their ongoing commitment to supplier diversity,” said Amira Rasool, founder and chief executive officer of The Folklore Group. “The Folklore Connect partnership with Nordstrom will allow their incredible buying team to connect with even more diverse brands from around the world and give customers an experience to shop fantastic brands they could not easily access online or in stores.”

Rasool said she started working with Nordstrom last April, and it was a six-month process of multiple calls and discussing the retailer’s vendor supplier goals. “I was talking about how our platform could help with that. Not just from the perspective of it being an easy way to discover brands, but how they can support brands. We do quarterly workshops where we have different speakers come,” she said.

They are thinking about ways to market these brands when they do get them in store or drop them online, she said. The Folklore can also also help them if they’re looking for a stylist, influencer or a photographer. “We want to be a place that they can go and ask those questions,” she said.

As a business-to-business tool, Rasool said Nordstrom has a Folklore account, and all the buyers have access to their own individual accounts. “They have access to browse the marketplace and browse the products and brands,” said Rasool. They can filter by Black-owned, LGBQT-owned, female-owned, sustainable, etc., and they can engage with them directly, she said. The Folklore meets with all of their buyers quarterly across different departments and provides them with a premium white-glove service. They propose which brands would be a good fit, and Nordstrom tells them which brands they’re interested in meeting. Nordstrom then places orders with the brand through its normal ordering methods.

There are 130 brands on The Folklore Connect. Ninety of them have active profiles and the remainder are being onboarded. The categories are women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, home wear and beauty.

Most of Nordstrom’s orders from The Folklore so far have been online.

As far as what they’re selecting, Rasool said, “They really like things that are different. They are looking for occasion wear that’s really going to stand out, they are looking for accessories that are really going to stand out. They’re looking to tap into new sources with new ideas,” she said. She said they don’t want a plain solid jumpsuit, “they want the ruffles or that cool print,” she said.

The Folklore has vetted all the brands and they speak to each brand ahead of time to see if they’re able to fulfill a large order from Nordstrom. “We have a lot of brands on the Connect platform that might not be able to do the type of units that Nordstrom might require. We’re not going to present those brands to them,” she said.

They don’t charge retailers anything, but take commission from brands from the orders that Nordstrom submits. The Folklore invoices the brands directly. The Folklore’s brands also pay subscription fees, but it also has a free tier, as well as Connect Plus and Connect Premium, where the brand pays a flat rate fee, and The Folklore would take less of a commission.

In 2020, Nordstrom committed to delivering $500 million in retail sales from brands owned, operated or designed by Black and Latinx individuals by 2025. In 2021, Nordstrom signed the Fifteen Percent Pledge, committing continued support to growing its purchases from businesses owned or founded by Black individuals tenfold by the end of 2030.

In 2022, Nordstrom made progress toward these goals, reaching $247 million in retail sales from Black and Latinx-owned and founded brands. Today, its customers can shop more than 250 brands in Black- and Latinx-owned and founded categories.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.
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Nordstrom Teams With The Folklore Group to Grow Black-Owned Brands
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