“You good?” read the motif on one of the designs in Target’s Black History Month 2021 assortment, a now-annual rollout featuring collaborations with Black makers—and one arguably ahead of the curve of last year’s so-called “racial reckoning.” In the wake of the current racial justice movement, which was tragically reinvigorated in May on 2020, followed by last June’s largely performative #BlackoutTuesday, calls for greater equity, economic opportunity and reformed policing are among the many demands still on the table in a now-21st century civil rights movements.
But while even the need to discuss and “study” reparations remains under debate, the #BuyBlack movement has seen the most immediate progress, as Black entrepreneurs have seen unprecedented traction in their goods and services, in addition to any number of initiatives and coalitions formed to make the retail landscape more reflective of the United States, as noted by Business of Fashion on Friday .
Although you wouldn’t know it looking at corporate America before mid-2020, the Buy Black movement isn’t new. Black businesses and the push to support them have always been around, but the movement was often contained within communities of colour. What’s different this time—and the reason the demand has held up over the past nine months—is it’s finally getting broader buy-in from White consumers and brand-name companies with deep pockets.
“This go-round, the push to buy Black was bigger than I’ve ever seen before,” Mandy Bowman of the online Black-owned business directory Official Black Wall Street told BoF, which also aptly noted what we’ve long known to be true: It’s not just goodwill, but good business.
Big companies aren’t embracing Buy Black for purely altruistic reasons; Black consumers in the U.S. have more than $1 trillion to spend annually, according to market research firm Nielsen. They and the increasingly important and socially conscious Gen Z consumers are looking for mission-driven companies, with stances rooted in environmentalism, equality or, ideally, both.
Accordingly, ours eyes were among many peeled to see how retailers would approach Black History Month this year; traditionally the month big businesses and brands take notice of the rich and varied history of Black America (not to mention the tremendous power of the Black dollar). Even as the month now comes to a close, support and celebration of Black creators and entrepreneurs certainly shouldn’t. That’s why we’re happy to report that many of this year’s Black History Month initiatives are more than just campaigns, instead signaling rollouts, launches and deeper structural shifts that stand to last far longer than the shortest month of the year—and meaning that even on February 28, it’s not too late to partake. So, what’s good?
Google Pixel x Black Owned Everything
Zerina Akers’ highly anticipated Black Owned Everything marketplace has finally gone live—getting an incredible inaugural boost via an exclusive partnership with Google Pixel, which honored Black History Month with a campaign “centered around Black creativity and ingenuity in business, community and the arts,” per a press release. This included its already-established initiatives to boost Black businesses through its Search, Maps and Shopping tabs, with a feature that now allows shoppers to easily identify and purchase from Black-owned businesses. To celebrate the launch of Black Owned Everything, Google Pixel powered a collaborative marketplace within the already well-curated platform, offering a bespoke sampling of Black makers’ goods.
Additionally, Google has partnered with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), utilizing the $50 million committed through the Grow with Google Small Business Fund to offer over $30 million in loans and Google.org grants to support Black-owned businesses and community lenders via local organizations through 2021.
Nordstrom, one of the country’s biggest and most revered retailers in the United States, has appropriately taken a multifaceted approach to addressing a lack of diverse representation within its ranks and offerings. Per a press release provided to The Glow Up, Nordstrom is committed to “delivering $500 million in retail sales from brands owned by, operated by or designed by Black and/or Latinx individuals” by 2025.
In honor of February’s Black History Month, the retailer rolled out several simultaneous launches in support and celebration of Black-owned brands, aiming to “amplify their voices through various merchandise categories in store and online.” These included the Black Founders x Center Stage pop-up shop at Nordstrom’s NYC flagship, a two month-long destination featuring “eight Black-founded and -owned companies from across the country spanning beauty, men’s and women’s apparel, footwear and accessories” and running through March 28. Featured designers include Jessica Rich, Coco & Breezy, Zelie for She, Bephie’s Beauty Supply, Uoma Beauty and more.
Additionally, Nordstrom’s New Concepts introduced Concept 012: Black_Space, available February 11 through the beginning of May. Via a press release, the launch was billed as “a collaborative effort forged through longstanding relationships between five Black creatives, Sam Lobban, Nordstrom SVP Designer & New Concepts and his team. Creative director Harris Elliot, designer Beth Birkett, stylist Matthew Henson, stylist Marcus Paul, and fashion editor Azza Yousif, each contribute a unique point-of-view and introduce brands that celebrate Black fashion and beauty.”
Lastly, the twin brother designer and curator duo Byron and Dexter Peart of luxury home goods company Goodee have now partnered with Nordstrom to launch Goodee 100, “a marketplace of 100 beautifully crafted home essentials priced at $100 and under” which went live on February 1. “[W]e have always revered Nordstrom for consistently being at the forefront of reimagining retail through curation and storytelling.” said Byron Peart in a statement, to which brother Dexter added: “It was very exciting to curate this first of its kind collection of treasurable (and affordable) home goods, that bear intrinsic value as they reflect the stories of not only our lives—but also of others.”
Faithful Target shoppers (I’m admittedly there at least once a week) are likely already well accustomed to the annual rollout of its branded (and always stylish) Black History Month assortment, which this year included designs from the Target HBCU Design Challenge. While the assortment will undoubtedly finish selling out in the coming month, Target’s other initiatives—which include an already-fulfilled pledge to permanently raise the minimum wage for entry-level workers to $15 an hour—will continue, as recently reported by Women’s Wear Daily.
Last fall, the retailer announced plans to increase representation of its Black team members throughout the company by 20 percent over the next three years. The retailer has more than 350,000 employees. Fifteen percent of all team members identify as Black, 8 percent of the leadership team identifies as Black and about 16 percent of the sales/store employees identify as Black.
As a founding member of the OneTen initiative, Target is helping to train, hire and advance 1 million Black Americans without a four-year degree into family-sustaining jobs. The coalition stretches across a variety of industries.
Make It Black
Amid last year’s racial uprisings, Uoma Beauty founder (and 2020 The Glow Up 50 honoree) Sharon Chuter launched Pull Up for Change to challenge the beauty and fashion industries to be actively anti-racist in process and practice. For Black History Month, the newly formed initiative found some allies in seeming competitors as the Make It Black collection campaign launched, offering a variety of products from other beauty brands (including Maybelline, Morphe, ColourPop and NYX Professional Makeup), repackaged in limited edition black-themed packaging. Most important, 100 percent of the net proceeds go towards supporting Black Founders through Make It Black’s Small Business Impact Fund.
“NYX Professional Makeup is proud to partner with Pull Up for Change to celebrate the beauty of Black and so we Make it BLACK,” said the affordable beauty brand, which repackaged its popular Ultimate Shadow Palette Warm Neutrals for the collaboration. “With this palette, we stand together to celebrate the beauty of black and collectively take a stand against the vilification of the word Black,” the brand added in a statement. Independent of the product collab, NYX pledged $30,000 in 2021 donations in support of the Make it Black initiative “to fight for economic equity for black communities all over the world.”
Artist, designer and activist Malene Barnett founded the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) “to build a more equitable and inclusive creative culture by advancing a community of independent Black artists, makers, and designers in creative industries throughout,” she said in a statement. For Black History Month, Bloomingdales partnered with BADG, along with The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and American Ballet Theatre’s ABT RISE (Representation and Inclusion Sustain Excellence) on the “Shop for Good” pop-up at its 59th Street flagship and online, “a curated selection of merchandise that includes products created by BADG designers and other unique finds displayed in a gallery-inspired environment.”
Online, this includes offerings from BADG members and makers Johanna Howard, Marie Burgos and Cheryl R. Riley; Meena Harris’ awareness lifestyle and apparel brand Phenomenal Woman; Briogeo haircare; Harlem Candle Company; 13-year-old entrepreneur Rose Powell’s Rose & Co candles; Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook, and more. To make the shopping that much more impactful, shoppers can round up to the nearest dollar to benefit the organization of their choice, or make a contribution online.