The Black In Fashion Council Is Here To Hold The Industry Accountable

Eliza Huber

Over the last month, following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more Black people at the hands of the police, businesses across industries have experienced a reckoning — one that is holding companies accountable for their racist treatment of members of the Black community. One industry, in particular, has been called out for its discriminatory practices toward Black people: fashion. But simply allowing problematic leaders to quietly step down from their positions of power at fashion media companies, publications, and brands isn’t enough. Black people in fashion — along with the customers and fellow employees who support them — are demanding more action be taken to provide them with the kinds of opportunities they have missed out on for far too long.

Following this, Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and founder of Sandrine Charles Consulting, Sandrine Charles, created the Black in Fashion Council. With members of the board including stylist and costume designer Shiona Turini, GQ’s deputy fashion director Nikki Ogunnaike, and the founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row Brandice Daniel, among others, according to Vogue, it was created to hold companies — most of which have announced in the last month plans for increased levels of diversity company-wide — accountable and to ensure that the claims being made today will continue to be followed with a close eye tomorrow (and beyond). 

“As a collective, we envision a world in which Black people in fashion and beauty spaces can be open and honest, guaranteed equal rights, and be celebrated for our voices,” the council’s mission statement reads. “While we are working on our end, we encourage people in the industry to rise to the occasion to sustain long-term change.”

To do so, the Black in Fashion Council is working closely with the Human Rights Campaign to develop an equality index score, not unlike its Corporate Equality Index for members of the LGBTQ+ community. The score will create a standard for companies in the fashion and beauty industries to follow with regards to inclusivity and corporate policies. It will also expect companies that have agreed to a three-year commitment to release information about the work they’ve done to better support and uplift Black employees. All information gathered will be summarized in a yearly public report.

After talking to industry professionals across the board over the course of the last month, Peoples Wagner and Charles feel proud of what they’ve created. “We really want this to be a collective of everyone, so we built out an industry standard of what we want diversity and inclusion to look like moving forward,” Charles told Vogue.

The duo isn’t alone in their efforts to change the fashion industry for the better. Earlier this month, Brother Vellies founder Aurora James announced her own call to action: the 15 Percent Pledge, which called on brands like Sephora, Shopbop, Net-A-Porter, and Target to commit to stocking their shelves with a minimum of 15% Black-owned brands. “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Black stylists, hairstylists, and makeup artists in the fashion and entertainment industries similarly came together to elicit change. Led by stylist Law Roach, designer Jason Rembert, and celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway, the Black Fashion and Beauty Collective is a nonprofit that acts as a sort of union where stylists and makeup artists can share opportunities and demand systemic restructuring. Earlier this month, the Kelly Initiative was announced via a letter written by Kibwe Chase-Marshall, Jason Campbell, and Henrietta Gallina to the CFDA. It was signed by over 250 Black people in fashion, including street style photographer Darrel Hunter, editor Gabriela Kareja-Johnson, designer Victor Glemaud, and stylist Patti Wilson and called for the association to create a public census of the fashion industry, one that would make the true level of diversity (or lack thereof) at all of the CFDA’s member organizations clear to all. The Kelly Initiative also asks that all participating companies conduct bias-mitigation training in order to create a safe and equitable environment for Black employees.

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