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A new directory of Black creative talent hopes to #ChangeFashion

The database of over 300 Black industry professionals was produced by Color of Change’s #ChangeIndustries, Black in Fashion Council and more.

Identifying and hiring Black talent in the fashion industry just got a little easier, thanks to the BIFC x #ChangeFashion Directory, a first-of-its-kind catalog of Black creatives. Launched Tuesday, the directory was produced by the #ChangeFashion initiative, a year-old joint effort by racial justice organization Color of Change’s #ChangeIndustries; the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC) created by Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Sandrine Charles; the Endeavor-owned New York Fashion Week producer and agency IMG; and model-actress and Donate My Wage founder Joan Smalls.

Photo: AdobeStock

“Too often, we hear from brands that they can’t find Black talent or that their Rolodex of talent needs to be more inclusive, but they don’t know where to begin,” said BIFC’s co-founders in a statement to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD).

The directory of over 300 industry professionals is “a resource for any brand in hopes of a commitment to addressing historical racism and systemic inequity in the fashion industry,” explains its website, adding that the directory “features Black-identifying photographers, makeup artists, set designers, and more, with a geographic reach that expands across the world. With this partnership, we rally companies and talent to restore equity and advance racial justice in the fashion industry.”

The initiative was among several formed in direct response to an increased recognition of longstanding racial inequities in fashion, disparities well documented in Peoples Wagner’s landmark 2018 survey for The Cut, “What it’s really like to be black and work in fashion.” The racial justice uprisings of 2020 further magnified the issue and prompted promises for accountability and increased equity across the industry. Among them was Global Editorial Director of Vogue Anna Wintour‘s admission to Vogue staff that the magazine had “not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators” (as reported by Forbes in June 2020).

The BIFC x #ChangeFashion Directory challenges the industry to not only acknowledge those oversights but fulfill its promises to do better, as stated in the initiative’s manifesto:

There are no excuses as to why there is not an increased presence of Black artists and talent in the fashion industry. Black people, Africa, and the diaspora have provided the inspiration and foundations of fashion—our precious metals, our fabrics, our style and choreography, even our bodies—yet we have been treated like raw materials, denigrated and stripped of our humanity while lacking proper representation to shift the narratives of harmful stereotypes about Black life, culture, and Blackness only being beautiful when interpreted through a white gaze. The industry needs to start including more Black people at the center of the work to change this.

Credit: BIFC x #ChangeFashion Directory

‍“Change is up to us. That’s why the BIFC x #ChangeFashion Directory is so critically needed,” said Color of Change Senior Director of Communication Amity Paye in conversation with WWD. “Not only is this the first-ever resource that can move the fashion industry to actually hire Black people and talent, but this is an example of how Black people can show our power. With this tool, we are advocating for true justice and showing what ‘better looks like’ by creating a real solution that can truly diversify the industry.”

The debut of the directory is part of a month of inclusion-boosting efforts from #ChangeFashion. On February 13, Color of Change celebrated the initiative’s first year by co-sponsoring the In the Blk Showcase. Partnering with designer Victor Glemaud‘s organization In the Blk and UPS, the New York Fashion Week event featured the collections of Black-owned jewelry brand Third Crown alongside labels House of Aama and Khiry. Following the star-studded event was a panel titled “Black Representation Beyond the Runway,” with Global Chief Content and Creative Officer of Essence MoAnA Luu and Brother Vellies and Fifteen Percent Pledge founder Aurora James joining Color of Change President Rashad Robinson and Glemaud for a discussion moderated by stylist Alexander-Julien.

Credit: In the Blk (YouTube)

“This isn’t only about who is onstage, in front of the crowds,” Robinson told the New York Times. “It’s about having a diversity of talented people at every step of fashion productions, behind the scenes as well.”

In an effort to ensure Black representation does extend beyond the runway, Color of Change and Endeavor/IMG also kicked off NYFW with an addition to the groundbreaking inclusion riders they previously co-created for the film and recording industries. This time, a template for the fashion industry was introduced.

As reported by the Times: “While the rider is a template that allows customization, its core goals are these: to help organizations diversify their hiring pools, set benchmarks for improvement, collect data and hold themselves accountable for their gap.”

To that end, the BIFC x #ChangeFashion Directory will only be accessible to companies that have committed to working with the initiative by participating in the #ChangeFashion Roadmap. As explained by WWD: “To do so entails signing a memorandum of understanding with Color of Change, completing an intake form, getting tailored road map commitments and agreeing to a work plan…including monthly check-ins and an annual progress report.”

“Fighting racism is not merely the trend of the season,” Paye told WWD. “You have to be in it for the long game, and creating tools like the Black in Fashion Council x #ChangeFashion Directory is a first step to advancing racial equity in and providing access to the fashion industry.”

More information on the directory is available at the BIFC x #ChangeFashion website.

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).

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