Last night, the CFDA and Google put together a panel titled “Black Fashion Founders Forum” to discuss black representation in fashion. The consensus was: there need to be more leaders, not just representation.
Discussions were led by Rikki Byrd, professor at the Sam Fox School of Design in Visual Arts at Washington University, and Annie Jean-Baptiste, Global Product Inclusion Evangelist at Google. Panelists included Rihanna’s stylish Jahleel Weaver, Brandice Henderson-Daniel, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row, Dyne founder Christopher Bevans, Parsons professor Kimberly Jenkins, and Vogue.com’s Fashion News Director Chioma Nnadi.
Designer Tracy Reese gave opening remarks and stressed the importance of looking at the positives when fighting for positions of power. “Social media and technology are helping to broaden concepts of beauty and what personal expression can look like,” she said. Panel topics included runway diversity, supporting black talent at schools like Parsons and FIT, and the effects of social media on black fashion designers.
Panelist Bethann Hardison of the Diversity Coalition believes that the industry is “more ignorant than racist.” She emphasized the importance of open discussion and education. “We have to get behind the scenes,” Hardison explains. “We have to get in the boardroom so companies like Pepsi won’t make the kinds of mistakes they’ve made lately.”