Harlem Fashion Row partners with LVMH to support diverse talent – ​​WWD

Joining together to support the next generation of diverse fashion talent, Harlem’s Fashion Row has partnered with LVMH North America, through which the two organizations will work towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive fashion industry.

Revealing the partnership at a Wednesday morning press conference at the Whitby Hotel in New York, the partnership marks a commitment by LVMH to support HFR’s mission to discover, mentor and showcase emerging talent of color through multi-platform events and high visibility and custom pipeline programs.

LVMH has committed resources to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues across the industry through people, business and brand initiatives and to support the next generation of diverse talent.

One of the key initiatives revealed at Wednesday’s press conference is that LVMH will be the main sponsor of the 15th annual Harlem’s Fashion Row Fashion Show and Style Awards in New York on September 6 in Harlem.

The aim of the partnership is to open the door to the next generation of talented Black, Indigenous and Black designers and to connect emerging 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 couldn’t be more excited about it. Of course, there’s a D&I component to this, but first and foremost, it’s about celebrating the incredible wealth of Harlem’s heritage, history, culture, art and innovation and bringing that into our world. We search the world for creative talent, it’s our competitive advantage. It is the future of each of our brands,” said Anish Melwani, CEO of LVMH 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 a wide range of designers to a world-class fashion curriculum consisting of invaluable tools and resources to grow their business and educated Gen Z on how they too can change the course of fashion. Together, we create opportunities for young people to get involved from high school, getting to know the marginalized, particularly students at HBCU, where they are in their fashion careers.”

Brands across LVMH’s portfolio, including Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, will continue to collaborate with HFR to provide mentoring and activation opportunities throughout the year and beyond. Some examples of supported initiatives include:

  • The HFR Icon 360 HBCU Summit: The HBCU Summit seeks to transform art and fashion programs at historically black colleges and universities across the US by providing direct design experience from industry experts. In collaboration with HFR and the Department of Art and Fashion at A&T State University of North Carolina, Tiffany & Co. will sponsor Tenacity Talks, a 10-week lecture series with industry experts on topics such as jewelry design and innovation.
  • HFR’S Designer Retreat: This three-day retreat hosted over 75 designers and featured several fashion speakers. During “Industry Stops”, designers were able to tour Louis Vuitton’s North American offices and meet with executives including Lanessa Elrod, Zone President and CEO, and Thomas Haupt, Senior Vice President of US Retail.
  • Black History Month Summit: Providing a forum for conversations with industry leaders, LVMH’s Melwani and Vice President of D&I Corey Smith joined Daniel to discuss the current state of diversity in fashion.

Smith said: “LVMH is committed to having a positive impact on our communities and carrying out the way forward set by Virgil Abloh and others who have helped advance equity and inclusion in the fashion industry by supporting and building a pool of creative talent. several. It is critical for LVMH as an organization to continue to develop talent of color in-house, ensuring the relevance of our brands and our products in a diverse and evolving consumer landscape. We see this partnership with HFR as a wonderful opportunity to focus on values, culture, business and community at the same time, as these notions are not mutually exclusive, but interconnected and reinforcing.”

Daniel explained how the two organizations came together and how it’s been working so far. “We are very excited about our partnership with LVMH. We had a conversation last year at the offices, and that conversation created such a rich partnership with a few different initiatives. They were really amazing partners,” said Daniel. She said that HFR has always been very thoughtful about the brands they partner with, “and this brand is really getting the job done.”

According to Melwani, he was introduced to the organization at the 14th annual HFR fashion show and was able to understand “how it taps into this incredible wealth of talent right here in our backyard.”

He also said that as he got to know the organization and its designers, he realized that they share many of the same values. “LVMH’s values ​​are entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and a commitment to excellence, all consistent with Harlem’s Fashion Week programs,” said Melwani.

Gena Smith, director of human resources for LVMH North America, said the company has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and launched its first work in 2011. She said LVMH’s core value is people. “People make the difference. Everything we have at LVMH and all the reasons for our group’s success comes down to the people,” she said. She said it’s the people who make the product, market the product and talk about it. “How can we ensure that the best, smartest and most creative people want to work for LVMH?” she said.

Last year, Corey Smith also attended the 14th annual HFR fair after joining LVMH during the pandemic. “Her show was the first one I went to as a rookie in this industry during New York Fashion Week, and if there’s any better way to get into this industry, it doesn’t exist. I was blown away. They took over a whole block of Harlem and made it phenomenal.” After it was over, he reached out to Daniel and Felita Harris, director of strategy and revenue at HFR, and said, “I need this next year. The level of luxury, attention to detail, diversity and inclusion that was organic to the event.” He said there were people with disabilities and a variety of skin tones and colors and gender fluidity. “He physically manifested everything we’re trying to accomplish at LVMH in one show, and a lightbulb went out,” said Corey Smith.

He said LVMH wants to align itself with organizations that can help them do things that, on their own, might need help. He also said that this partnership is two-way. “It’s not just cutting a big check and saying go ahead. It’s really about us having things to offer, but you also have things you can help us learn from,” said Cory Smith.

Melwani pointed out that it all comes down to what everyone learned from Virgil Abloh, the late artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. “Virgil taught by doing, not just talking. In fact, he spoke very little. It was only after the murder of George Floyd that he came to us and wanted to speak internally to all our people. Otherwise, he spoke through his work. What he showed us, in this industry, there are so many barriers, there are so many privileges that need to be neutralized, and how difficult it is for any emerging designer to break through and just be seen and have their work discovered. He did this by bringing people with him, whether it was makeup artists, models and other creative directors. Just 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 haven’t been able to finish all of Virgil’s lessons.”

Access is a big missing piece for color designers, said Daniel.

Corey Smith said they constantly talk about the relevance of LVMH in the future. “We have a very rich brand heritage, very rich brand DNA, always looking back, all our founders and how they started, very entrepreneurial. What is our future relevance? The only way we’re going to stay relevant in the future is if we start exploring the new creators, the new designers. The future looks very different from the past. We recognize it, understand it and embrace it. Again, it makes business sense.”

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