Being born during the age of the Internet has provided a vast number of opportunities in a multitude of industries. Opportunity though, that still requires discipline, hard work and constant battles. However, these battles are now taking place on our own grounds.
While the influence of African American culture has been ever-present in the fashion industry, seen in magazines, music, films, on Broadway, and even trotting down the runway; the African American face and identity has not always been given its fair due. Rightfully so, then we are in the midst of a change. The resilience of the African American community is present as usual.
Designers, bloggers, stylists, editors, trendsetters and producers are no longer waiting in line for their opportunity to shine. They are taking it, and for many of those aforementioned, they are now a part of the “New Generation of Fashion.”
For many years, participating in a beautifully-crafted runway show during Fashion Week was a farfetched dream for designers of color. A dream that came with a hefty price tag; literally costing more than $100,000, and the right connections.
In 2007, Brandice Henderson-Daniel, a fashion industry alumna who spent 12 years as a buyer and production manager, decided to create a platform that would change history. Daniel decided to create Harlem’s Fashion Row, a now premiere event during Fashion Week.
According to their website, Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) is a social company that provides a voice for designers of color through a creative platform that enables these designers to sell and present their collections to key leaders within the fashion industry. Not only has Daniel’s decision to create this platform allowed designers to be featured in a high-end runway show, but her company extends opportunities to designers that will place them with key retailers providing the support to take their brands to new heights.
The HFR website also notes, designers of color represent less than 1 percent of designers available in major department stores. In an industry that grossed more than $250 billion in 2013 alone, the voices of designers of color are not being heard, celebrated, or acknowledged. HFR was created for the sole purpose of breaking that industry standard.
As a highlight to Daniel’s shows, you can also always expect to see models of color on the runway. Something that has also proven to be a difficult task to achieve in the past in the illustrious world of fashion.
Many young girls have dreamed about becoming the editor of a famed fashion magazine; a job that was few and far in between, and like all jobs in the industry, required a laundry list of the right contacts. Yet now, with the vitality of the Internet, many fashion enthusiasts are able to create their own space where they can not only work as a fashion editor but, be in a position to showcase designers, styles, and highlight trends based on their own liking.
Claire Sulmers, a Harvard alumna, writer and editor based in New York, created “The Fashion Bomb Daily,” a blog catering to the fashion enthusiast of color. The blog contains information such as celebrity style, trend reports, street style and offers followers an opportunity to get involved by sending in their own images to be featured as a “Bombshell of the Day.” As reported on it’s site, “The Fashion Bomb Daily” receives 2.4 million visitor per month. Sulmers was named Black Blogger of the Month by Black Enterprise and listed as Blogger of the Moment for Teen Vogue. What is clear is that African Americans are not waiting for opportunities, they are creating them.
The new leaders and trendsetters in fashion must continue to hold the door open for others to follow. Worthy of note, each of the women mentioned above are sharing their knowledge through educational opportunities for young fashion enthusiasts.