ESSENCE Fashion House Reveals Major Retailers ‘Embarrassed’ By Lack Of Black Designers


Brandice Daniel founded Harlem’s Fashion Row when “less than about 1 to 2 percent of designers that are in major department stores,” were “designers of color.” 

According to her, that statistic is still true today after 14 years of fighting for equality in fashion. “That hasn’t changed since I started. That same statistic has remained,” she said in a conversation with fragrance master Chris Collins, celebrity stylist Groovy Lew and ESSENCE Deputy Editor Cori Murray at ESSENCE Fashion House

Harlem’s Fashion Row offers education, resources, and opportunities to Black designers. Fe Noel, who has worked with the company, is now sitting on the shelves of Saks Fifth Avenue

“There’s more now but it still hasn’t moved the needle a ton,” added Daniel.   

In 2020, Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, who recently dressed AOC for the Met Gala, publicly demanded department stores begin stocking 15% of their shelves with Black designers. Her cry became a non-profit initiative called the 15 Percent Pledge

Daniel, who has brokered major partnerships with athletic giants and staple ready-to-wear retailers for Black designers, revealed that the disparities in the fashion industry were so severe that some companies were literally ashamed of their lack of diversity.

She says when she made visits to their headquarters, they would block her from seeing the results of their lack of inclusion. 

“And then when you go inside of retailers and go inside of brands, they don’t even want me to walk on their design floor,” she revealed. 

She said on more than one occasion, the response to her request to see the inner workings of a company’s design floor has been, “Nope, we’re so sorry, we’re not taking you there.” 

The companies’ are clearly aware of their creative shortcomings.

“They will tell me, ‘we’re embarrassed to take you there because we know you’re going to be tracking and we don’t have enough Black designers,’” said Daniel.  

Let’s hope they get embarrassed enough to do something real about it sooner than 2035. 


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