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Beyond the Instagram Black Square

  • June 06, 2020

Rihanna has her own brand at LVMH. Virgil Abloh is the Louis Vuitton men’s wear designer. But while Kering, the owner of Gucci and Saint Laurent and the second largest fashion conglomerate in the world, has made a powerful statement against racism and made meaningful donations to the N.A.A.C.P. and Campaign Zero, as well as starting diversity and inclusion councils for its brands, none of those brands have a creative director of color. Tapestry, the owner of Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, is the only fashion group with a black chief executive: Jide Zeitlin.

Until the executive suite changes, it is hard not to feel that a lot of the statements and initiatives are still words and intentions, not reality. And we are left with suspicions and investigations: How much of what they say do they actually put into practice?

One of the problems is that big brands traditionally allow only two people — the designer and the chief executive — to speak about their companies. Perhaps it is time to unmuzzle the staffs and encourage them to share their own lived, individual experiences. In its statement, PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, did not just take a stand or announce a donation (though they did both), but it also gave space to two black employees (one from human resources, one from marketing). It’s a start.

So is a new initiative from the Council of Fashion Designers of America to create an employment program that it says is “specifically charged with placing black talent in all sectors of the fashion business,” as well as mentorship and internship programs.

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