Black Designers and Creatives

Beyoncé Shines in Red Telfar Bodysuit at ‘Renaissance World Tour’

Beyoncé Shines in Red Telfar Bodysuit at ‘Renaissance World Tour’

Beyoncé looked to another famed designer for her ongoing “Renaissance World Tour” on Thursday in Vancouver, wearing a red custom ensemble by Telfar. The outfit, which marked the first time the songstress had worn the Black designer brand while on tour, consisted of a shimmering oxblood bodysuit. The look also included sharp lapels, white bordering and the brand’s signature “TC” logo, which stands for the brand’s founder, Telfar Clemens.

Beyoncé’s Telfar outfit, which included matching arm slings, connected chaps and a red baseball cap, was mirrored after Telfar’s Tracksuit line. In a mother-daughter moment, Blue Ivy also hit the stage wearing a custom look by the designer: a glittery jersey with shoulder cutouts and coordinating track pants.

Related Articles

Beyoncé and her 11-year-old daughter have matched throughout the tour on many occasions. In July, the duo wore custom-shining Louis Vuitton looks by the brand’s newly appointed creative director Pharrell Williams.

Beyoncé’s Telfar outfit, by Shiona Turini, is not a surprise given the songstress has expressed her support for the brand on her “Renaissance” album. The lyrics in “Summer Renaissance” state, “So elegant and raunchy/ this haute couture I’m flaunting/ This Telfar bag imported.”

Her lyrics drove a real change in the fashion industry as well, according to The RealReal, which reported that search interest for Telfar on its platform rose 85 percent on the day Beyoncé dropped the “Renaissance” album.

Throughout the tour, Beyoncé has worked with a variety of high-fashion designers, including Balmain, Brandon Blackwood, Valdrin Sahiti, Jacquemus, David Koma and LaQuan Smith. “Renaissance World Tour” secured the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic album. Beyoncé’s tour has less than five shows left, with the last date in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 1.

Here’s How 5 Fashion and Beauty Brands Owned by People of Color Are Dealing With Inflation

Here’s How 5 Fashion and Beauty Brands Owned by People of Color Are Dealing With Inflation

Small businesses, and particularly those owned by people of color, have been facing a multitude of challenges since the onset of the pandemic and its resulting impact on store closures, supply chain tie-ups and altered consumer demand.And with the impact of inflation, those challenges aren’t letting up.
The latest U.S. inflation rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June, was 9.1 percent, higher than it’s been since the early ’80s.
A March survey from Bank of America found that 88 percent of small business owners said inflation was affecting their business, 68 percent have raised prices and 34 percent have had to reevaluate cash flow and spending.
And just as communities of color tend to feel the impacts of inflation more greatly, businesses owned by people of color that may have less access to capital to cover some of the rising costs, as has historically been the case, can also be harder hit.

Related Galleries

Here, WWD hears from five fashion and beauty brands owned by people of color about how inflation is affecting their businesses.

Panama hats being made in Ecuador for Cuyana.


Cuyana, a womenswear and accessories brand specializing in sustainable handbags, has had to increase its prices as a result of inflation, but company cofounder and chief executive officer Karla Gallardo said customers have remained supportive in spite of the hikes.
“Like most businesses, Cuyana is not immune to the impact of inflation. The current climate has faced us with challenges such as rising costs of our materials, production and transportation, ultimately leading to an increase in the price of our products. At the outset of the pandemic, when these fluctuations were very unpredictable, we decided to take on the initial increases without impacting our suppliers and customers,” Gallardo said.
“With every decision, we try to take a longer-term view, realizing our business works in symbiosis with people on both ends of our supply chain. But as it became more clear that the rising prices were here to stay, we recognized it was unsustainable for our business to maintain this stance. We shared this position openly and honestly with our customers. They responded with an outpouring of support, recognizing we would only take this step if absolutely necessary,” she said.
The Folklore Group

Looks from Selfi, left, and Connade ,right, two brands featured in The Folklore Group.

Courtesy of The Folklore Group

The Folklore Group, a company that creates a global ecosystem for consumers to explore, connect and shop from African- and diaspora-owned designer brands, echoes a different sentiment about inflation.
“There’s an old saying that when white people catch a cold, Black people catch pneumonia. I think that perfectly defines what is happening to Black businesses right now as a result of inflation. It is impacting the world, but it’s especially hard on Black people and Black businesses that already have historically been deprived of access to economic opportunities,” said Amira Rasool, founder and CEO of The Folklore Group.
“As a business that relies on the services of other businesses, we have seen an increase in prices from some of our service providers that we did not expect. We are also a business that services other small Black-owned businesses who are facing the same inflation issues when it comes to shipping, sourcing fabrics and other areas of production. Our success is dependent upon us being able to help these brands be more successful, and with inflation that has become a bit more challenging,” she said.

Brown Girl Jane 

The Brown Girl Jane “Wanderlust” fragrance collection is out now.


Malaika Jones, CEO and founder of skin care, body care and wellness brand Brown Girl Jane says inflation caused a spike in the brand’s production costs and materials.
“Effective mood-boosting solutions, especially during turbulent times, remain a priority for our customers who have made self-care a ‘must have.’ We’re grateful that sales for our fragrance-centered wellness collection haven’t been negatively impacted thus far, and we expect that to continue as women prioritize ‘feel-good’ supplements with immediate impact,” Jones said.
“We have, however, certainly experienced an increased cost in raw materials, freight and components due to inflation. We’ve made the choice to absorb those costs rather than pass them to our buyers and were able to do so due to a healthy mix of direct-to-consumer and wholesale distribution,” she said.
Hanahana Beauty

Hanahana Beauty Skin Nutrition

Courtesy of the brand

Hanahana Beauty is a clean skin care and wellness brand dedicated to uplifting women of color that has faced added pressure due to the economic situation in the country.
“We have seen the direct effects of inflation when it comes to the procurement of packaging and ingredients, especially regarding freight prices. For us as a brand, our primary goal at this moment is how do we sustainably scale? So we are being very diligent around how we spend our dollars…and what the outcome is,” Abena Boamah-Acheampong, founder and CEO of Hanahana Beauty, said.
“But also at the same time, we know that our customers are being affected, so we want to continue to educate our community on the effects that inflation has on Hanahana Beauty,” she said.
Riot Swim

Riot Swim’s Echo one-piece swimsuit.

Courtesy of Revolve

Monti Saunders, the founder of luxe beachwear and womenswear brand Riot Swim, along with members from the brand team, say as the business continues to experience changes because inflation, they have learned to become more adaptable.
“In today’s climate of inflation, it has not only been taking a toll on POC businesses, but all small business owners are witnessing the impact of inflation. Small businesses are thinking outside of the box and seeking various opportunities to further expand. While facing difficult challenges that have made entrepreneurs become more adaptable during this time, there now has to be a shift of focus on operational and strategic planning that could directly impact customers, employees and the performance of the business,” they said in a collective statement to WWD.

“Customers’ buying needs have shifted with the rise of inflation, and more people are focused on buying essential items versus apparel, shoes and beauty products. Inflation has also caused some companies to raise their prices to sustain their business needs due to supply-chain factors. POC business owners are constantly looking for alternative methods to further secure their business requirements, and we’re hoping to continue making long-term goals even with the rise of interest rates and other numerous factors that inflation has affected,” they said.

Stitch Fix Introduces Its First Elevate Collection

Stitch Fix Introduces Its First Elevate Collection

The first class of products from Stitch Fix’s Elevate grant and mentorship program is graduating, the company revealed Friday, with its inaugural Elevate collection featuring the works of six entrepreneurs of color.The program, operated in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row, aims to support entrepreneurship and cultivate budding talent among underrepresented Black, Indigenous and people of color. The first installment ran from January to August, and now the fruits of that labor are ready for their introduction.
The new collection traverses women’s and men’s apparel and accessories from rising stars Busayo Olupona of Busayo (recently making waves as the go-to designer for celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o and Madonna) and Diarrablu’s Diarra Bousso, in addition to emerging talent like Jamela Acheampong of Kahmune, Marcus Alexander’s Marcus Thomas, Sarep + Rose’s Robin Sirleaf and Chloe Kristyn’s Bettina Benson.

Related Galleries

Through the program the mentees received $25,000 grants and months of sessions, individualized guidance, business advice and plenty of training on how to use the company’s data modeling, which informed everything from pricing and assortment to design. Elevate ultimately culminated in a wholesale order to carry the products through Stitch Fix’s Freestyle service or its “fix” subscription styling offering.
Not all of the products will be available as exclusives to the company, except in cases where it collaborated on the colors, prints, patterns or designs — and even then, for a limited period of time. According to Loretta Choy, general manager of Stitch Fix’s women’s business, the company isn’t looking to lock people into a long-term restrictive deal.
Stitch Fix, which describes itself as an online personal styling and shopping service, traces Elevate’s origin back to last year, when racial justice protests put issues of inequality into painful focus. The program was the the company’s response, taken through a retail lens and oriented toward ways to cultivate opportunities.
“After the killing of George Floyd last year and the Black Lives Matter events, we were really focused on [questions like] what could we do to impact the retail landscape, and how can we participate in making change, driving change?” Choy told WWD. “Katrina [Lake], when she founded the company, was really interested in change overall in the retail landscape. So why not come together and really leverage our resources to imagine a program where we can help people learn and grow their businesses?”
Choy wound up spearheading the Elevate program, which included one-on-one calls with Lake, Stitch Fix’s founder and then-chief executive officer.
The intelligence-driven company decided to leverage its expertise in data, algorithmic modeling and insights to help successful applicants grow their businesses. Choy described it as an eight-month “evergreen” program, which returns every year — applications are accepted in October, with a January start date. It looks to foster long-lasting connections between the entrepreneurs and the company itself.

“I think of that as being very, very different from other programs in the marketplace,” she said.

From the new Elevate collection (left to right): Dele Dress by Busayo; Becky Pump by Kahmune; Sheena Wrap Dress by Diarrablu; Erin Blouse by Chloe Kristyn; Bayo Maxi Dress Dress by Busayo; Rectangular Crossbody by Sarep+Rose; Brennan Straight Leg Pant by Chloe Kristyn; Aida Wrap Blouse by Diarrablu; Mila Bootie by Kahmune; Barlow Sneaker by Marcus Alexander; Kearn Sneaker by Marcus Alexander; Robin Tote by Sarep+Rose
Courtesy photo

The participants can tap different areas of the company, from buying teams, marketing and finance to the algorithms group, and ongoing support is available. “[It’s] that balance of art and science,” said Choy, adding that this is key for understanding how Stitch Fix uses its data science tools.
As part of the application process Elevate generates a report for the finalists so they can see how the company uses the data tools to help them make decisions on the product, pricing or the designs within their collections. The tools are used throughout the program, allowing the grantees to run their product line through the algorithmic tool.
That allows them to see, for instance, how to create the right product, matched to the right price and customer, to drive the highest sell-through. The tool also helps them understand their positioning against other brands. Choy was quick to point out that Stitch Fix doesn’t offer identifying information about specific brands, but can paint a broader picture so the participants can understand the landscape.
“When we worked with DiarraBlu and leveraged the tools, we talked a lot about color printing pattern. And as we were deciding, you know, which prints, what colors for the time of season, the time of year, that we were going to be introducing this product to our clients, we made adjustments together.”
Diarra Bousso, founder of the DiarraBlu brand, is no stranger to mentorship programs. The Stanford-educated Senegalese mathematician, known for size inclusivity and algorithm-fueled designs, is an alum of Macy’s-backed Fashion Incubator of San Francisco.
Still, she gushed about the Elevate experience and how much she learned from Stitch Fix.
DiarraBlu might have seemed like a brand that didn’t need help: The business received plenty of press coverage and saw major growth over the course of the pandemic, by a factor of 20 times. The momentum was partly due to the rush across e-commerce, as well as more attention on Black-owned brands with the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement last year. There is also the fundamental nature of Bousso’s eye-catching designs.

But buying cycles are wont to fluctuate, leaving Bousso trying to staff up and grow the business through the changes. Then she learned that she was accepted into Stitch Fix’s program.
“For me, that was important, because I’ve always admired Stitch Fix, in terms of a company that beautifully marries technology with fashion and with art. That aligns a lot with what I’m trying to do with DiarraBlu — using technology in a way that that solves problems,” she told WWD. “So being able to be part of that program was like, ‘Oh, my God, if these people believe in me, it means this is serious! Like, this is really cool.’”
She grew a lot from the personal interactions, she said, finding camaraderie with her fellow participants. She also spoke to different people across Stitch Fix, which was an experience she found invaluable.
In her retelling, she’s still blown away by her experience with chief algorithms officer Eric Colson, who was once a vice president of data science and engineering at Netflix.
“He did that at Stitch Fix and oversaw all the data science teams,” she said. “We talked so much about my work, and he gave me so much help and advice. I spoke to people in marketing and PR, in product development, accessories — like any single thing that I wanted to get support on, there was someone who would be there.”
In her conversation with Lake, she asked about marketing and how to scale it on a budget. According to Bousso, the Stitch Fix founder told her to go slow and pressed upon her how important it is to have an organic love for rich storytelling.
“I was very surprised when she said that, in the first four and a half years at Stitch Fix, they didn’t spend $1 on marketing at all. And they said they didn’t spend $1 on marketing until they reach $250,000 in sales,” she said. “I was mind-blown to hear that.”
Another mentor helped her figure out the nuances of rolling out shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories next year. “She literally sat down with me and shared every single thing, from price points, to materials, to finishes, to the way to shoot it, to how to present it [and] how many bags to release at once,” said Bousso. ”I showed her my digital designs and drawings, and she literally looked at every bag and told me how much that would be worth based on which material I use.”

Similarly, Stitch Fix worked with Kahmune on its line of luxury footwear and accessories. For the line, which is available in 10 different skin tones, Evelate helped her understand what the gaps are within the range.
Stitch Fix is, of course, invested in the success of Bousso and her peers in the program — not just as a feel-good measure but, according to the company, because equality has always mattered to its founder.
To back that up, Stitch Fix offered a few numbers: Lake intentionally focused on pay equity and ensuring that women are well represented in roles that are typically male-dominated — with women accounting for 42 percent of technical employees, 58 percent of leadership and 55 percent of the board, not including Lake herself and current CEO Elizabeth Spaulding.
The business has also expanded the roster of Black-owned brands it carries, with 15 percent more added this year, including Autumn Adeigbo, The Label, Rockridge, Miles and Milan and Creavalle. Considering it offers some 1,000 brands or so across the U.S. and the U.K., there’s clearly room to grow.
Speaking broadly about the market, Choy — a 15-year veteran of retail with stints at Old Navy, Levi’s, Warnaco (Ocean Pacific) and Banana Republic — said, “What I have observed is kind of a slow pace of change, and there really isn’t product that is as diverse as it should be in the marketplace. It’s hard to find, you really have to comb for it. Things can get quite homogeneous quite fast….
“It’s about time for us to be able to show more diversity in design and show more diversity in product for all clients.”

Ones to Watch: Antoine Manning

Ones to Watch: Antoine Manning

Antoine Manning, the Atlanta-based accessory designer, is creating pieces that contribute to conversations happening in the world and also look good.
After a fashion internship where Manning gleaned insight into how the industry works, he felt ready to move forward with his own brand. Amidst the pandemic, Manning felt inspired to create something new and sketched out his first bag.
Made from vegan leather, each bag and colorway has a meaning behind it: the green mini bag, which retails for $150, represents tranquility; the orange mini bag, also priced at $150, is meant to evoke vitality, and the lavender classic bag, retailing for $275, is intended to represent abundance.

The bags will be available for purchase on Sept. 24 via the Black Fashion Fair, an online platform that highlights a variety of Black-owned brands. “Twenty percent of the sales go back to helping our communities, something that brings together Black brands and different brands and entities, a powerful statement of what we can do when we stick together,” the designer said.

Antoine Manning abundance classic bag, $275
Courtesy photo

Antoine Manning tranquil minibag, $150
Courtesy photo

Antoine Manning vitality minibag, $150
Courtesy photo

Sewit Sium Is Using Jewelry to Honor Black History

Sewit Sium Is Using Jewelry to Honor Black History

Brooklyn-based creative Sewit Sium launched her jewelry collection in 2015, but to call her just a jeweler doesn’t give the full story.
Sium creates handcrafted pieces that reference Black culture, each piece created as a modern heirloom, imbued with sentiment and story, her way to educate and pass on knowledge to her consumer.
“I knew that I loved the intersection of history, education, politics, fashion,” Sium, who identifies as both a designer and educator, explained. “Through symbols and motifs, there is so much that we actually can learn about ourselves.”
Sium’s collections use symbolic pendants, rings and bracelets made from 18-karat gold vermeil and silver, each of which she produces in her Brooklyn home, adding another layer of personal connection to what she puts into the world. She launched her namesake brand with a Black power fist pendant, an enduring symbol that in the wake of the racial unrest of 2020 continues to resonate with her customer.

“My pieces are historically referenced, but they’re definitely relevant today,” she said of her work. “They’re part of a living history.”
Education through a creative outlet runs deep for Sium (her father was a history teacher) and before launching her brand she taught fashion and activism at various New York City public schools, and incorporated jewelry as an educational tool. “When I was teaching I was trying to create the curriculum that I would have been engaged with when I was a student, to create a feeling of belonging,” she said.

Related Gallery

Sium sees herself in her jewelry, too, explaining that she had a need to create pieces she couldn’t find at retail.
“I feel a strong urge to bring into the material world what I need for my life,” the designer, who is completely self-taught, said. “I think I make jewelry to liberate Black culture from [the] hands of colonialism, but also to connect origin story and its context, so we can feel what it is.”
Designer and educator Sewit Sium’s creations.  Courtesy

Today the brand has grown to include a variety of collections: the Icon Collection pulls inspiration from the ancient African kingdoms of Kush, Kemet and Punt, incorporating scarabs and divine felines; the Freedom Collection was created in the spirit of truth, equality and justice, and includes images of historical figures like Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X. Sium says each amulet of the Freedom Collection is meant “to be worn daily as anchorage, supporting us as walking affirmations in continued pursuit of freedom.”
“We’re in a historical moment right now,” she said. “Often history is framed as something of a distant past in textbooks, but it’s organic and happening now.”
Marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest and growth of the racial justice movement, 2020 saw many brands helmed by Black creatives experience a spike in interest from retailers — Sium included — but she has been laser-focused on identifying the right partners for her brand.
“After hurricane Haiti, there were retailers giving all these artisans play and then they just pulled them after a while because it wasn’t trendy anymore,” she explained. “And I feel like that’s what they’re doing now with like Black Lives Matter.”

“Everyone’s grasping,” she added. “[Retailers] want newness and you’re always grabbing something new, it fuels cultural appropriation….It’s the type of retailer that has pieces that are like ‘tribal.’ You can’t just pull ideas like that, it’s not authentic; and it’s theft. If you are truly about Black lives, then support Black jewelers.”
So far, Sium has partnered with Moda Operandi to sell her creations. ”I feel like they’re trying to do something good,” she said, adding that her brand’s e-commerce is thriving, quadrupling sales last year. “I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything” she quipped, adding that 2020 was both taxing and cathartic for her.
Pushing ahead, the designer and educator has joined the In the Blk collective and is creating a collection referencing her Tigrinya Eritrean (East African) ancestry, which she says “is taking me on an inward journey.”
“There’s so much chaos and pain out here, I feel the need to bring indigenous medicine into the world I want to be part of,” she said of her new collection’s symbolism. “That’s the world I want to live and thrive in. Confident I can do that with jewelry and writing, the main tools or weapons in my arsenal.”

For More, See:
Equal Measure: Moving the Conversation Forward
A History of Fashion in the Black Civil Rights Movement
Nextail Says the Future of Fashion Leadership Is Female

Color of Change, Joan Smalls, IMG and the Black in Fashion Council Launch #ChangeFashion

Color of Change, Joan Smalls, IMG and the Black in Fashion Council Launch #ChangeFashion

#ChangeFashion, an initiative focused on fighting racism and long-standing systemic issues in the fashion industry, has been established by Color of Change, Joan Smalls, IMG and the Black in Fashion Council.
The initiative invites companies to take responsibility for their impact on the world and provides steps to ensure the industry is working toward racial justice rather than against it.
#ChangeFashion marks the third iteration of a multi-industry racial justice accountability franchise from Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. The first was the #ChangeHollywood initiative that Color of Change released with Michael B. Jordan in partnership with WME and Endeavor Content, sister companies to IMG. The second, #ChangeMusic, is being executed with the Recording Academy.

The partnership combines IMG, Black in Fashion Council and Small’s understanding of the industry with Color of Change’s racial justice and corporate accountability expertise. Together, they have created an industry-specific road map that speaks to the racial injustice within fashion. The road map’s key recommendations are to champion representation of Black individuals in the industry; develop inclusive content for creative consumption and marketing; create an equitable workplace; engage more openly and effectively with Black communities, and invest in Black safety by reassessing relationships with police and security within the industry.

Related Gallery

“The #ChangeFashion road map is the resource we’ve been needing, for both my industry peers and the brands and executives we collaborate with,” said Smalls, IMG model, activist and founder of “We have to start putting actions behind our words. We cannot sit back and hope that change will come, we must be the force that makes it happen. Making changes can be difficult but the purpose behind the #ChangeFashion road map is that no one person or organization has to act alone. This resource will push the boundaries of what fashion is capable of, empowering all of us to be the force for good we desperately need.”
Among the road map’s recommendations:
• Divest from the police. The road map recommends that companies hire independent security services instead of using the police department for security in all instances wherever possible. It suggests, where possible, to use one’s voice to keep up the pressure on local governments to reduce spending on police and prisons, to adopt changes in the criminal  justice system and to shift investment to Black communities.
• Invest in Black representation and portrayals to elevate Black creatives, models and behind-the-scenes talent. One recommendation is to advocate for hiring cultural consultants and partner with issue experts to help ensure authentic portrayals of Black people. In addition, they recommend advocating for creating a dedicated budget for producing and marketing content representing a range of authentic Black stories, while ensuring there are multiple senior-level Black executives with decision-making authority.
• Develop Black talent and careers, and advocate for funding anti-racist training, independent racial justice audits of workplace culture, and the adoption of pay equity and anti-racist workplace policies and practices. Other recommendations are to disclose information about staff diversity, establish proactive recruitment, support, retention and training measures for Black people at all levels, including LGBTQ Black people within companies, and increase the number of Black people in leadership.

• Engage with Black communities in the cities in which companies operate and support Black businesses. The road map suggests contracting with Black-owned and Black-led businesses, especially in sectors that have traditionally excluded Black people, and encourage the organizations with which one works to maintain a roster of black businesses for connecting services. They also recommend partnering with brands that are in alignment with anti-racist social justice values, and to commit to supporting programs and community initiatives that elevate, support and empower Black communities.
The #ChangeFashion road map.  courtesy

Sandrine Charles and Lindsay Peoples Wagner, cofounders of Black in Fashion Council, said in a statement, “Black in Fashion Council is excited to partner with the #ChangeFashion initiative and expand on the ultimate goal of bringing radical change and inclusivity to the industry we care about most. Developing and sharing best practices and specific accountability guidelines is integral to creating the ecosystem that will enable all of us to thrive. In an industry rooted in collaboration and connection, joining forces is the only true path forward for racial justice in fashion.”
“We are proud to deepen our partnerships with Color of Change, the Black in Fashion Council, and Joan Smalls,  lending our network and resources to support substantive change and lasting reform in fashion,” said Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models and Fashion. “Meaningful change requites commitment from every corner of our industry, and we are committed to doing our part to foster racial equity and inclusion.”
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said, “Fighting racism can’t just be the trend of the season. And there are two fronts to the fight: ending the long-standing discrimination and mistreatment of Black creators and other professionals working across the industry and ending the long-standing pattern of misrepresenting Black bodies and diminishing Black lives, which perpetuates the dehumanization of Black people in society at large. The fashion industry has an important role to play in dismantling structural racism, and Color of Change is proud to work in partnership with any organization that is serious about doing what it takes to drive real change.”
Rashad Robinson  courtesy shot.

Asked whether he believes the road map will motivate fashion brands to take action, Robinson said, “What we’ve learned across the industries is that you have to take people up on public commitments and then you have to move those public commitments into road maps for action. And then you have to create enough transparency and visibility that you engage consumers and employees, and you build a sense of reward and consequence for a movement.”
“We know we’ll get a lot of statements across many industries of intentions,” said Robinson. “Some of them will be well meaning and some of them will be of the moment to prevent backlash or to stay out of harm’s way. Part of what we’re trying to do here is recognize that if we don’t put some infrastructure around this and put some contours behind this, we will have allowed a bunch of people to make statements that they weren’t willing to wrestle with.”
“In no way do we think a road map means that we’ve gotten to some destination. But without a road map there is no destination to get to,” said Robinson.
Smalls, one of the most sought-after fashion models in the industry, was asked how she plans to get the brands to actually do something.
“I think it’s about continuing to apply pressure. I think sometimes they feel if they’re inclusive one season, it’s enough. I think it’s always important that the change comes from within the company, not just the visuals or the narrative that the rest of the world is seeing. That’s where true change comes,” she told WWD.
Asked whether brands should be required to be more inclusive when they cast projects, she said, “I don’t think it comes from a place where you should force people to do good, but it’s a reminder that they should. Sometimes people feel that their hand is being forced, but if it’s not at the forefront of your mind and your company, and you don’t know these decisions can influence a generation, then why not do it?”
She said it’s important to ask these brands why they have a lack of diversity, are they putting in an effort, and are they open to it. She feels many brands are doing a better job in the visuals with more people of color, more inclusivity when it comes to age and race and their campaigns are more representative of their consumer. However, she said, “A lot of times, fashion tends to give this narration of what beauty is and sometimes they can be a bit narrow-minded.”
When asked if she feels modeling agencies are doing a good job bringing more diverse models onto their rosters, she said, “I think it’s supply and demand. Often they didn’t feel the need to represent Black girls, or Hispanics or Asians if the market wasn’t wanting it. So therefore they didn’t care to have these girls, or you’re just wasting space and energy and you’re not booking anything. I feel that now, because brands are requiring more diversity, there’s more room for that.
“You need to look within the agencies and see how many people of color do we have? I can tell you for the most part, I can count them on one hand,” she said. She said a lot of the change has to come from hiring more diverse people who work in the agencies.
“The fashion industry tends to be elitist and it’s hard to break through because it’s based on relationships,” said Smalls. “A lot of the time, they just continue to nurture those relationships, so there’s no room for new talent. When it comes to hair, makeup, styling, it’s just like a clique that continues going from one place to another. Sometimes even with me, when I try to push someone I work with, who’s a person of color, there’s a push-back because either the photographer or stylist has never worked with them, and they want to work with the people whom they trust. I understand because you have that comfort and rapport from working with someone but at the same time, OK, give me the opportunity because if I’m vouching for them it’s because I’ve worked with them, and I have a good eye of what talent is,” said Smalls.
Smalls believes there’s a lot more work to be done in the way Blacks are portrayed in fashion advertising. “I love the inclusivity and they’re giving more opportunities not only because of their skin color, but the way they look. I think there’s more openness for that and I think that’s great. A lot of the times where I think they’re missing the mark is they’re not being portrayed at their best. With certain images, I haven’t felt that people of color have been highlighted to their full potential of their beauty or given the same…it’s almost like ‘this is how we see you’ and it’s almost a watered-down version to what they usually do to people who aren’t Black. Black people, they strip them away and it’s more simple. Even the lighting. This is the one thing that has been irking me the most is the lighting has been so awful. Not only don’t their features look good, but their skin color looks dull. And I find that highly offensive,” said Smalls.
Overall, she said, brands should be held accountable.
Asked whether her situation has gotten better over the years, she said, “My career has been different. It comes in waves. One thing I’ve always been grateful for is having the opportunities a lot of women didn’t have when I was coming up. Sometimes there was just one or two of us and a lot of time I was the token. I’m flattered and grateful people saw me for more than just the skin complexion and were champions of me.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice and dedication and tears at the same time — trying to push forward to make sure you’re valued the same way,” she said.
Highly philanthropic, last year Smalls launched, a project that furthers her support for Black Lives Matter organizations. In June, Smalls committed to donating 50 percent of her salary for the remainder of 2020 to organizations advancing racial equality and justice.
“I will still devote to causes that speak to me, and need more attention and need resources,” she said.

IMG and the Black in Fashion Council Strengthen Their Alliance
Joan Smalls Launches Online Donation Platform, Donate My Wage
When It Comes to Diversity in Fashion, There’s  Lots of Work to Be Done

PHP Code Snippets Powered By :