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CFDA launching initiatives to target systemic racism

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has announced that it is looking to bring about "systemic change” within the fashion industry following the “deplorable acts of racism and violence” that has been highlighted following the deaths of black people at the hands of police.

Following a board meeting on June 2, the CFDA stated that it had formulated four initiatives, including to create an in-house employment programme and mentorship scheme for black talent, which would be undertaken “immediately” to “stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against.”

The joint letter signed by chairman Tom Ford and president Steven Kolb said: “Black people in this country are reeling from years of injustice stemming from institutional constructs such as slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, police brutality and economic and voter suppression. The black community is experiencing anger and frustration on top of the effects of the global pandemic that has hit communities of colour the hardest.

“Having a clear voice and speaking out against racial injustice, bigotry and hatred is the first step, but this is not enough. This is a deeply disturbing moment that speaks to us all. Our world is in deep pain.

"Our industry is in pain and it is not enough to simply say that we stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against. We must do something.”

CFDA announces four infinitives to combat racism in fashion

Among the initiatives, the CFDA said it plans to create an in-house employment programme specifically charged with placing black talent in all sectors of the fashion business to help achieve a “racially balanced industry”. This programme will also be tasked with identifying black creatives and pairing these individuals with companies looking to hire.

They will also create a mentorship and an internship scheme focused on placing black students and recent graduates within established companies in the fashion sector, as well as implement and make available to its members a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ training programme.

The final action point it stated will be to make “immediate contributions” and take up fundraising activities in support of charitable organisations aimed at equalising the playing field for the black community including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Campaign Zero.

The letter from Ford and Kolb concluded by urging CFDA members to "take stock of their corporate structure to ensure that they have a racially balanced workforce," as well as challenging the retail sector to "ensure that their roster of brands and their product assortment is representative of the black talent within the industry.”

The CFDA’s announcement follows calls from designer Aurora James, creative director and founder of shoe and handbag brand Brother Vellies, who launched the 15 Percent Pledge for major retailer’s like Net-a-Porter, Sephora, Target, and Saks to pledge a commitment to buy 15 percent of its products from black-owned businesses.

Image: via CFDA website

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Council of Fashion Designers of America