Model, musician, multihyphenate – these are words that you’d typically associate with SHAVONE., born Shavone Charles. Now, the diversity, equity, and inclusion advocate has taken her passion for the relationship between tech and fashion for creatives of color to a leadership role as the founder of Future Of Creatives. Described as “a tech-minded multidisciplinary creative group and community platform that seeks to elevate the stories of underrepresented creatives across tech, entertainment, contemporary art, and fashion,” SHAVONE., who serves as the Head of Communications & Creative Partnerships at VSCO, debuted Future Of Creatives as a means to amplify underrepresented creators.
“I’m really excited to finally share my vision for Future Of Creatives with the world. I’ve been working on this idea and dual concept for my creative group, community platform, and consultancy for years, and there’s a critical need for more equity, resources and diverse representation across disciplines within the creative industry,” the modern-day renaissance woman told ESSENCE. “For years, I’ve worked on passion projects as a creative director and supported friends in the creative industry with brand marketing, public relations and creative direction. Community building and DEI work are the other major parts of my everyday passion and ongoing career journey. Future Of Creatives is a true melting pot of all of my creative worlds together, across contemporary art, fashion, entertainment and advocacy, with tech at the center as the connective glue and foundation of my career path.”
As part of the launch of the Future Of Creatives launch in August, the platform debuted its first-time photo project and community series with PUMA highlighting underrepresented women creators. Following the launch of Future Of Creatives, ESSENCE caught up with SHAVONE. about her career trajectory as a creative, her recent collaboration with PUMA, and the need for more inclusivity, equity, and representation for black creators in tech and fashion. See below for the full conversation.
ESSENCE: How have you seen technology become so integral in the fashion industry? How has the relationship between the two evolved over the years?
SHAVONE.: More and more, we are seeing technology continue to be a pivotal part of fashion and the larger concept of community around fashion. If you look at the influence of fashion from a topical perspective on social media alone, the impact and amount of fashion content being shared and created surmount just about every other genre of content on the world’s biggest platforms. Over my years in tech, I’ve seen so much consumer and consumer behavior data on fashion and beauty as two of the most engaged with verticals on the internet – particularly on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and more. The internet is slowly making fashion a lot more accessible and tech is absolutely reshaping the idea of fashion as an institution or concept for the “elite.”
Think about topics like sneaker culture, streetwear, and all things culture on the internet. You are guaranteed to see many of these topics and nods to culture on the runway now and it’s more transparent than ever in our modern-day era, thanks to technology and social media. Technology is absolutely disrupting the fashion industry and building more nuanced communities that are connecting with one another around shared fashion interests. It’s also inspiring to see the body positivity movement and overall, technology’s influence on showing a more inclusive and diverse fashion world.
ESSENCE: Why is it imperative for your roles and your career trajectory to include all of your passions as a creative?
SHAVONE.: Earlier on in my career, my creative passions and pursuits took more of a backseat as I found my footing and started in the technology industry. At the time, the industry and the world sort of told us – myself and so many other Black creatives – we had to do this one professional thing super well and blend in to be taken seriously. During my early years in tech, I really made it a point every day to simply show up to work as myself in my truth, in my identity. That exercise enabled me to become more comfortable and confident in self and it opened the door for me to build a more inclusive community with others who were up against similar tensions. I leaned into that tension of being a Black woman in a space that wasn’t engineered for us, or created with us in mind.
As I learned balance and really hit a stride in my career, I actively made a choice to lean into the creative parts of my personality, identity, and skillset. That action has had such a positive impact on my career path and continues to impact my career journey. This approach has actually enabled me to co-author all of the roles I’ve held in tech and outside of tech. Career-wise, I know for a fact that I have had the great privilege to thrive and stay inspired throughout my journey as a result of fearlessly leaning into my creative passions.
ESSENCE: How has PUMA specifically been bridging the gap between fashion and technology?
SHAVONE.: Working with the PUMA team has been an incredible experience for me. They are absolutely in a new renaissance moment as a brand and it is 100% due to their inclusive, community-first approach to storytelling and bridge-building with online communities. PUMA is completely tapped into the culture from an online and in-real-life perspective, and technology is at the heart of that connective tissue.
The fact that PUMA proactively reached out to partner with me, a Black creative in tech, is a really inspiring example of how they are bridging gaps and really making the idea of fashion more accessible for many of the underrepresented communities that have played such a pivotal role in sneaker culture and streetwear. I am super excited for what’s to come from my ongoing collaborations with PUMA and my creative group Future of Creatives. Online community and using technology through an inclusive lens will absolutely continue to be a part of our future fashion projects.
ESSENCE: Why is it important for you to amplify underrepresented culture shifters and creatives?
SHAVONE.: If we don’t do this work for ourselves, who will? From my time working in very non-diverse, male-dominated spaces, I’ve experienced firsthand the feeling of looking around and feeling undervalued, underrepresented, and invisible. It isn’t enough to just be the only one in the room or the one person of color carrying the torch. We have a shared accountability to light the way for others and create access, as we climb toward our own dreams and aspirations. We have to lift as we climb, that is the requirement if we ever want to see long-lasting positive change and progress across our industries. In order to be seen, we have to see each other first. I want Future Of Creatives to be that safe space and inclusive community for underrepresented creatives, but for that space to truly thrive, we all have to have a sense of shared accountability in our communities.
ESSENCE: What is your hope for the future of creatives in technology and fashion?
SHAVONE.: My hope is that we continue to break down those doors and institutional ceilings, with the mission to lift as we climb and leave the door open for future generations. From a community [point of view], I want Future Of Creatives to help equip underrepresented creatives with the tools and network to advance their creative endeavors and careers in a way that’s equitable and rooted in real long-term systemic shifts. The technology space in itself is in need of a lot more diverse and Black representation across the board at a staff and leadership level. Fashion shares a similar need but technology platforms have actually helped drive positive impact to create more equity and access in the fashion space. We have a lot of work to collectively do on both fronts! Overall, I hope for a more inclusive, safe, and diverse version of both industries and I’m willing to do the work that will help us get there.