Teaming up to support the next generation of diverse fashion talent, Harlem’s Fashion Row has established a partnership with LVMH North America through which the two organizations will work toward a more diverse, fairer and inclusive fashion industry.
Unveiling the partnership at a news conference Wednesday morning at the Whitby Hotel in New York, the partnership marks LVMH’s commitment to supporting HFR’s mission of discovering, mentoring and presenting new color talent through multiplatform, high-visibility events and customized programs.
LVMH has dedicated resources to addressing diversity, equality and inclusion across the sector through people, business and brand initiatives and to supporting the next generation of diverse talent.
One of the key initiatives unveiled at Wednesday’s press conference is that LVMH will be the title sponsor of the 15th annual fashion show and Harlem’s Fashion Row Awards in New York City on September 6 in Harlem.
The partnership aims to open the door to the next generation of talented black, indigenous and people color designers and connect new black designers with global luxury brands across the LVMH Group, ranging from Louis Vuitton and Tiffany to Christian Dior, Fendi and Sephora.
“This is the biggest partnership we’ve ever had in North America and we can’t be more excited about it. Of course, there is a D&I component in this, but above all it is about celebrating the incredible wealth of Harlem’s heritage, history, culture, art and innovation and bringing it to our world. We are looking for creative talents in the world, that is our competitive advantage. This is the future of each of our brands, ”said Anish Melwani, LVMH’s Chief Executive Officer for North America.
“Through this partnership, HFR and LVMH North America look forward to continuing their mission of giving color designers access to individuals and organizations that can help shape their future,” said Brandice Daniel, CEO and Founder of HFR. “We have successfully introduced many diverse designers to a world-class fashion curriculum consisting of invaluable tools and resources to grow their business, and we have educated Generation Z on how they too can change the flow of fashion. In addition, we have created opportunities for young people to get involved in high school, meeting the marginalized, especially HBCU students where they are in their fashion careers. ”
Brands from across the LVMH portfolio, including Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, will continue to work with HFR to offer mentoring and activation opportunities throughout the year and beyond. Some examples of supported initiatives include:
- HFR Icon 360 HBCU Summit: The HBCU Summit seeks to transform art and fashion programs at historic black colleges and universities in the U.S. by providing direct expertise to design experts. In collaboration with HFR and the A&T Department of Arts and Fashion A&T North Carolina State University, Tiffany & Co. will be sponsored by Tenacity Talks, a 10-week series of lectures with industry experts on topics such as jewelry design and innovation.
- HFR’S Designer Retreat: This three-day vacation hosted more than 75 designers and featured several fashion speakers. During Industry Stops, designers were able to visit Louis Vuitton’s North American offices and meet with executives, including Lanessa Elrod, president and CEO of the zone, and Thomas Haupt, senior vice president of US Retail.
- Black History Month Summit: Providing a forum to talk to industry leaders, LVMH’s Melwani and D&I Vice President Corey Smith joined Daniel to discuss the current state of diversity in fashion.
Smith said: “LVMH is committed to the positive impact in our communities and the realization of the way forward set by Virgil Abloh and others who have helped foster equality and involvement in the fashion industry by supporting and building a pool of diverse creative talent. It is crucial for LVMH as an organization to continue to develop color talent internally, while ensuring the relevance of our brands and our products in an evolving and diverse consumer environment. We see this partnership with HFR as a wonderful opportunity to focus on values, culture, business and community at the same time, because these concepts are not mutually exclusive, but interconnected and mutually reinforcing. ”
Daniel explained how the two organizations have merged and how it works so far. “We are so excited about our partnership with LVMH. We had a conversation last year in the offices and that one conversation created such a rich partnership with several different initiatives. They really were amazing partners, ”said Daniel. She said HFR has always been very careful about which brands it partners with, “and this brand really does its job.”
According to Melwani, he was familiar with the organization at the 14th annual HFR fashion show and realized “how it is used for this incredible wealth of talent right here in our backyard.”
He also said that as he got to know the organization and their designers, he realized they shared many of the same values. “The values of LVMH are entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and a commitment to excellence, all in line with Harlem Fashion Week programs,” Melwani said.
Gena Smith, Director of Human Resources at LVMH North America, said the company has a longstanding commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and launched its first work back in 2011. She said the core value at LVMH is her people. “People are making a difference. “Everything we have in LVMH and all the reasons for the success of our group come down to people,” she said. She said that people are the ones who produce the product, place it on the market and talk about it. “How do we ensure that the best, smartest and most creative people want to work for LVMH?” She said.
Last year, Corey Smith also went to the 14th annual HFR show after joining LVMH during the pandemic. “Your show was the first show I went to as a newcomer to this industry during New York Fashion Week, and if there’s any other better way to get into this industry, it doesn’t exist. I was thrilled. They took over the whole block of Harlem and made it phenomenal. ” After it was all over, he caught Daniel and Felita Harris, HFR’s chief strategy and revenue officer, and said, “I need this next year. A level of luxury, attention to detail, diversity and inclusion that were organic to the event. ” He said that there are people with disabilities and a number of shades and colors of skin and gender fluidity. “It physically manifested everything we’re trying to achieve at LVMH in one show, and the light bulb went on,” Corey Smith said.
He said LVMH wants to align with organizations that can help them do things they might need help with. He also said this partnership is two-way. “It’s not just cutting a big check and just saying that. It’s really about having something to offer, but you also have things you can help us learn, ”said Cory Smith.
Melwani pointed out that it boils down to what everyone has learned from Virgil Abloh, the late Louis Vuitton menswear art director. “He taught Virgil by working, not just speaking. In fact, he talked very little. It was only after the murder of George Floyd that he came to us and wanted to talk internally with all our people. By the way, he talked about his work. What he has shown us, in this industry, there are so many obstacles, there are so many privileges to be confronted, and how hard it is for any emerging designer to break through and just be seen and their work discovered. He did it by taking people with him, be it make-up artists, models and other creative directors. Just by making them visible and giving them access to this very privileged world … makes it better. For us, we still have a lot to learn as an organization, and unfortunately we have not been able to complete all the lessons from Virgil. ”
Access is a big piece that color designers lacked, Daniel said.
Corey Smith said they are constantly talking about LVMH being relevant in the future. “We have a very rich heritage of the brand, a very rich DNA of the brand, we always look back, all our founders and as they started, very entrepreneurial. What is our future relevance? The only way we will continue to be relevant in the future is if we start using new creators, new designers. The future looks very different from the past. We have recognized, understood and accepted it. Again, it makes good business sense. ”
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