There were inspirational words and a record crowd of 600 guests at the Black Retail Action Group's 36th annual sponsorship and awards dinner-dance at Cipriani on Wall Street last week.
The festive atmosphere, however, didn't overshadow the message that more must be done to recruit and retain people of color so they can rise as retail executives.
The irony, BRAG president Gail Monroe-Perry suggested, is that the black community has enormous buying power, representing $845 billion, which is estimated to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2012. But only 2 percent of U.S. merchandising executives are black.
"We are as important, if not more important, to the retail community as in 1970," when BRAG was founded, Monroe-Perry said. She also decried "a lack of representation on the runways and in advertising."
Among its many activities, BRAG organizes mentorships, seminars and workshops, and works to promote the acceptance and advancement of people of color in retail and related industries. Major retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, Macy's, Limited Brands, TJX Cos., Sean John, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor are among the companies that support BRAG.
"To reach out to young people, to share your experiences with the kids, that's what really counts," Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told the crowd. "It's having mentors."
Rangel said he learned from the street, growing up in a poor neighborhood, and also from his experiences working in hardware shops and drugstores, and selling vacuums. "Selling ideas and being creative, this is what life is all about," he said.
Twenty-six student scholarships were awarded at the dinner. In addition, Lisa Price, founder and managing partner of Carol's Daughter, received the BRAG J.J. Thomas Business Innovators Award.
BRAG Business Achievement Awards went to John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos.; Joe Dudley, president and chief executive officer of Dudley Products; Marti Moore, divisional vice president of cosmetics at Lord & Taylor, and Mikki Taylor of Essence Magazine.
Naomi Campbell received the BRAG Special Recognition Award, and Ethan Shapiro, ceo of Urban Brands, accepted the BRAG Corporate Award. He said 97 percent of his employees are people of color and 98 percent are women, adding that his company, which operates the Ashley Stewart and Marianne chains, is the sole U.S. firm targeting only people of color in its marketing programs.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia