NEW YORK, USA.- About 250 black fashion professionals on Thursday filed a strongly worded petition on Thursday, denouncing the situation and racism to the U.S. Council of Fashion Designers calling on the commercial organization to use its status to hold the industry accountable for the recruitment and promotion of black people.

The letter, called The Kelly Initiative, was organized by publisher Jason Campbell, creative director Henrietta Gallina, and writer Kibwe Chase-Marshall in honor of Patrick Kelly, the black designer who was the first American to be admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Pr’t-a-Porter in 1988.

Signatories include designers Edward Buchanan, Martine Rose and Victor Glemaud; fashion directors Gabriella Karefa-Johnson (Garage), Carlos Nazario (i-D), Tiffany Reid (Bustle Digital Group) and Corey Stokes (Highsnobiety); famous stylist Jason Bolden; cosmopolitan beauty director Julee Wilson; stylist Shiona Turini, Director of Vogue Fashion News, Chioma Nnadi, Virgil Abloh, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, activist Bethann Hardison or designer Aurora James, among others, who also point out that there may be different opinions among professionals as to how to drive change in the industry to the better.

The Kelly Initiative group says that fashion has prioritized “the optics over the genuine pursuit of equity” and that the CFDA “has allowed the exploitative cultures of prejudice, tokenism and labor discrimination to thrive without being sufficiently denounced by the kind of surveillance intervention expected from organizing an industry umbrella”

The petition urges CFDA to conduct a census of industry companies to collect data on the racial makeup of employees at all levels of their organizations, to provide training and prejudice mitigation to managers, and to ask their members to sign a commitment to create recruitment opportunities for black professionals.The letter also requires that fashion recruitment firms that sign the same promise and that their practices be audited by a third party. After collecting industry data, the petition proposes that the CFDA publish it annually to provide benchmarks and record the progress of the actions being requested.

In a press release, a CFDA representative said he is already following the actions published in a letter on June 4, which included an employment program, and that he continues his relationships with Hardison and Harlem’s Fashion Row by pursuing diversity initiatives. The organization said it will also work with newer groups, specifically the Black in Fashion Council led by Peoples Wagner and publicist Sandrine Charles.
“Our priorities are to ensure that the CFDA represents all of the industry’s needs, including providing more diversity and inclusion,” read the release.
As the growing Black Lives Matter protest movement sheds light on racial inequality and discrimination in society, the fashion industry is specifically more noted because it has its own entrenched racism. The lines of leading fashion editors and executives are overwhelmingly white and many brands have faced strong criticism from employees and consumers for offering statements of support for the protest movement t but without really addressing domestic problems.
 CFDA board meeting on June 2 focused on these topics, with a conversation led by designers Virgil Abloh and Kerby Jean-Raymond. They joined the board in September 2019, Maria Cornejo and Carly Cushnie in an effort to diversify the leadership of the business organization and replace, among others, Kara Ross (who received criticism after her husband, Stephen Ross, organized a fundraiser for President Trump in August 2019) and Georgina Chapman.
On June 4, President Tom Ford and President Steven Kolb released a public letter. That letter announced some actions, including an employment program to help place black professionals in fashion jobs and charitable donations.
The Kelly Initiative petition released Thursday said those initiatives fell short, describing them as “hasty attempts” to combat racism that were “so poorly conceived that they even lacked a name.”
The joint platform also seeks to launch “The Kelly List”, an annual index of 50 black professionals across the industry who will receive support and display possibilities for their work as well as networking opportunities, and who will commit to hiring black professionals at work and during their careers.The organizers also requested a video conference meeting with the CFDA on Friday, June 19, also known as Juneteeth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

“We will contribute endlessly to the fabric and figurative progress of fashion. Our hands have taken cotton but our minds are also prepared for haute couture and design and today they will take the wheel of our destination within the industry,” the petition says. . “We will no longer be relegated to the back seat, or worse, completely out of the way”
Source: Business of Fashion
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