While some companies still strive for phrases rather than action when it comes to diversity, other organizations invest their money where there is influence.
Creatives Want Change, for example, has a mission to bring more black creatives into the fashion industry by forming a range of talent as early as high school.
The nonprofit has named its second cohort of fellows who will receive fully funded pre-college scholarships at the country’s top fashion schools, including FIT, Parsons, Otis and SCAD, among others. For the 25 students, who will either attend schools in person or participate in online programs, all tuition, supplies, travel and all housing funds will be provided by the CWC.
Isabelle Jean, a CWC Fellow for the second year in a row from the New Jersey Summit, is interested in the business aspect of the fashion industry, including brand marketing and advertising processes.
“This organization can help teenagers who are interested in fashion and want to pursue a career, but do not know where to start,” she told WWD. “This opportunity for me is an opportunity to learn and prepare for the future in fashion. My goals are to make great connections, become super knowledgeable in the world of fashion and hope to one day work for myself and have my own clothing line. ”
The CWC was founded in November 2020 by Joe Medved, founder of CEO’s search firm Joe’s Blackbook; Randy Cousin, Senior Vice President of Product Concepts and The People’s Place Program at Tommy Hilfiger; and Matthew Kane, director of men’s and women’s knitwear design at Club Monaco.
The goal is to reverse the often alarmingly low enrollment of black students in design programs across the country.
The cousin, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio Red County, says Bear, who hired him for his first job at Abercrombie & Fitch, wondered why it was so difficult to hire black creatives at the college level. Cousin said waiting until they are in college is too late for their recruitment and that the industry must start earlier if it wants to have a real impact on adding more black professionals to the fashion ranks.
“Now more than ever, after the strengthening of the BLM movement, we recognize that representation is important. To see the team we want to see, we have to show up much earlier, and that means supporting young black creatives at the high school level, ”Cousin said. “That’s why the CWC had to exist.”
Since last year’s CWC Fellowship was virtual, this year’s Fellows will follow a hybrid format. Kane, who said the first year of the CWC to be completely distant was a “double-edged sword”, says this year’s program is also aimed at students who are unable to travel due to family or other obligations, and also funds all travel and accommodation costs for those who are able to engage in personal learning.
“The first year we established ourselves and we really did it the best we could given our resources,” Kane said. “We are much more established now and have even more bandwidth to make an impact.”
This year, CWC even managed to expand the company by hiring a program director, Namasha Schelling, whose experience in nonprofit work spans 14 years.
This summer, in addition to existing scholarships, students were provided with gift cards and sewing machines from JoAnn Fabrics, a sponsor of CWC for the second year in a row, to purchase all fabrics, textiles and accessories for their designs.
Abisola Ayoola, a 10th grader, is entering her second year as a CWC Fellow and is preparing to attend long-distance pre-college courses at the University of San Francisco Academy of Arts.
Ayoola said her experience as a 2021 CWC Scholar helped her in her independent research study in high school on diversity and inclusion in the wedding industry. During the course, Ayoola analyzed the cultural implications of wedding fashion in different societies and ways to improve the choice of wedding clothes on the market and the diversity of wedding designers.
“My experience with CWC has been particularly helpful to my research as I have been able to examine the effectiveness of mentoring programs and conduct interviews with wedding professionals,” Ayoola said. “I would appreciate their continued assistance in the mentoring department because I really enjoyed my last one with the Reformation.”
As for what it takes to keep the fashion industry an inclusive space, returnee Isabelle Jean believes it’s more diversity in all its forms.
“I would love to see more diversity in the industry. Not only in race, but also in people of different cultures, nationalities, backgrounds and more, ”said Jean. “I think that when you gather a diverse group of people, it brings different perspectives and enables the greatest creativity. In addition, it gives all kinds of young people someone who looks like them when they can emulate. ”