KSU NYC Studio Event Honors Powerful People of Color in Fashion
The Kent Fashion School's NYC Studio ended Black History Month on a high note last month when they co-hosted the event "Making History: Powerful People of Color in Fashion" in collaboration with ourCusp, a community for people of color in the fashion industry, held in the Studio's space in the garment district in NYC.
The event brought in current students, Fashion School alumni and prestigious members of the fashion industry of all races, ethnicities and genders to support diversity, equity and inclusion. A second audience of students and faculty from the Kent's main campus live-streamed the discussion and were able to listen to the panel of professionals personally discuss the unique challenges faced by people of color in the workplace and how they are reshaping the culture of the industry from the inside, while also discussing strategies that can be used to navigate uncomfortable situations in both personal and professional lives.
The event featured a special panel of industry professionals discussing the unique challenges people of color face. "Concerns we have as people of color are not the same as other people's," expressed Jenae Green, a Kent Fashion alumna. Green, who is the founder of ourCusp and currently serves as the special events manager at Bergdorf Goodman, moderated the panel of co-speakers, Ashalii Miree, the senior buyer and director of e-commerce for Calvin Klein, Celeste Thompson, the vice president of human resources at Janou Pakter Executive Search and Nicole Horsford-Holley, who serves as the director of development and production at Marissa Webb.
The discussion launched a vigorous conversation with the panel and the audience that covered an array of categories including code-switching, hair, physique and class strains to name a few, but also featured a discussion about how people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds can become a better ally to each other’s community. "There's something to be said for having difficult conversations, and there are ways to have friendships and mentorships with people who do not look like you, and learning from them, about their culture, will change you as a person," said Holley. "Ask questions to bridge the gap, and take time for the people who are worth it. Not everyone is."
During the question and answer portion near the end of the discussion, a member of the audience touched on the some of the fashion industry's recent racial missteps made by prominent fashion brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Prada and H&M. Said Holley, "You name it, someone has done something recently. It's like, oh it’s Tuesday, we’re so desensitized because it has been happening for so long. They’re apologizing, forming committees, but it’s already out there. Added Miree, "Ultimately we will not see a true change until we get in the decision-making seats. There were so many approvals those things had to undergo, so many eyes were on them, before making it to market which is scary. Don’t wait for the seat, kick the door in, figure it out. I don’t mean it in an aggressive manner, but being smart and strategic about how you influence people. If you’re not yet at the table, you can still have an influence. If you see something that is not okay, give your opinion. That’s how they begin to trust you more and include you in things."
The event concluded with a networking and mingling session which gave students in attendance the opportunity to mingle with the industry professionals, resulting in two new internship opportunities arising for the students. Shared one student attendee, "Thank-you so much for hosting this event at our school and giving us the opportunity to meet African American business professionals. It was so encouraging for me to see these women and hear their stories and wisdom."
The Fashion School and NYC Studio hope to make this event an annual occurrence. "The feedback we've received from this event is quite powerful, but it's a reminder that we still have so much work to do in service and support of our diverse student community," said Ann Walter, the acting director of the NYC Studio.
On Thursday, April 25, the Studio will be hosting a live-stream reception of the Fashion School's Annual Fashion Show. The complimentary networking event will feature light refreshments and is open to all Fashion School alumni and current students studying in NYC. Space for this event is limited. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 18 to reserve your spot.
If you would like to learn more about the diversity event discussion and read more responses from the panel of professionals, check out this Fashion United article written by NYC studio instructor, Jackie Mallon, a writer for Fashion United.
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