Founders Lindsey Peoples Wagner (left) and Sandrine Charles.
For as long as most of us can remember, the fashion industry has remained overwhelmingly dominated by white executives, board members, editors, art directors, stylists, models, and more. Over the years, there have been countless movements, articles, and challenges to the status quo, driven in large part by employees and consumers who have tired of images and campaigns that do not reflect how diverse society actually is. For the most part, the majority of these call-to-action movements have only lasted for a season or two. Until now.
In June of this year, The Black in Fashion Council was established in response to just that. Comprised of editors, models, stylists, and more who work within the fashion industry, the council calls on brands and companies to push for real change, rather than performative actions posted on social media. Below, find information on the council and what its members hope to accomplish, including those who are leading the efforts in the fight for equality.
The mission of The Black in Fashion Council is “to represent and secure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry.” Founded by Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, and Sandrine Charles, the owner of Sandrine Charles Consulting, the council has also enlisted the support of the Human Rights Campaign, with a goal of establishing an equality index score that will be used to hold brands accountable. A yearly report will be produced by the council to track the work of member companies, all who are required to sign a three-year commitment.
The council hopes for brands to strive towards increasing their representation of black employees at all levels, pushing especially for an increase of black executives and editors, who often do not make up a large share of senior positions. In addition, a digital directory of black fashion brands and beauty professionals will be created, with the hope that this becomes a go-to staple for industry leaders when searching for talent and more.
The council is comprised of leading figures within the fashion industry. As mentioned, it is led by Peoples Wagner and Charles. To supplement this, categories helmed by industry leaders make up the rest of the council, which is at 400 members currently. This includes Nikki Ogunnaike of GQ, Tiffany Reid of Bustle Digital Group, Antoine Phillips at Gucci, Candace Stewart at Prada, Fe Noel, Anifa Mvuemba, Hanifa, Jason Rembert of Aliette, Shiona Turini, among many others. Each of these members will head up specific groups, including media, corporate brand, emerging brand, retail, beauty, styling, talent, education, and model representation.
Peoples Wagner hopes that the Black in Fashion Council will move past “cancel culture,” which has in recent years grown in movement, largely due to social media. Instead, the council hopes for “accountability culture,” which allows members to give brands a progress report, as well as access and resources to advisors and ways to improve. This creates an environment that lends itself to a stronger future, where systems will inevitably have to be torn down before they can be built together, and correctly.
For Sandrine Charles, “Our experiences are heartbreaking,” she told GMA3. “That moves us to bridge these gaps between the narratives that we know and have seen, as we want to make longterm and sustainable change.” Focusing on ways to increase this includes creating a collaborative collection of black fashion, beauty industry stakeholders, leaders, and creators, with a mission to represent and secure the advancement of black individuals moving forward.
The council acknowledges that change doesn’t happen overnight, which is part of the reasoning behind mandatory three-year commitments. With hopes for the website to launch this month, those who are interested in participating can sign up for email updates and news. It’s clear that 2020 is the year of profound change as we know it, shaking up ideals and ways of life that were for too long set in stone. Real change is on its way.