Tapestry Inc. and Kate Spade New York are the latest to align with Harlem’s Fashion Row.
As part of their efforts to further the next generation of diverse creatives, Tapestry and Kate Spade New have forged a three-year partnership with HFR’s annual HBCU Fashion Summit. Through this initiative, students at Bowie State University, the oldest Historically Black University in Maryland, will have the opportunity to engage with and learn from Kate Spade New York executives and designers.
Historically Black colleges and universities were established in the U.S. before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the Black community. There are currently 107 colleges nationwide that are identified by the U.S. Department of Education as HBCUs.
Created in 2020, the HBCU Fashion Summit aims to change the art and fashion programs at HBCUs in the U.S. by providing students with expertise from industry insiders. This year’s edition will include “Tenacity Talks” for Bowie State students to gain information from Kate Spade leaders, including chief executive officer and president Liz Fraser, senior vice president of brand concept and strategy Kristin Naiman, senior vice president and head of design, ready-to-wear and lifestyle categories and Tom Mora, and senior vice president and head of design, leather goods and accessories, as well as Tapestry’s chief inclusion and social impact officer, David Casey.
Some of the subjects that will be addressed include “How to Build the Bones of a Brand,” “Concept, Print and Color” and “Materials for Accessory Design.” There are also a few more brand-centric ones like “The History of Kate Spade and Tapestry” and “Kate Spade Accessory Design 101.” There will also be a session for “Mental Health and the Fashion Industry.”
As part of its three-year commitment to HFR, Tapestry plans to build upon the alliance by ushering in other leaders from its portfolio of brands, including Coach and Stuart Weitzman. Like other major conglomerates and some smaller companies, Tapestry is taking steps to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. In line with that, Tapestry will sponsor Bowie State University’s senior capstone fashion show. In addition, internship opportunities will be offered to students to gain further insights and experience in the fashion industry.
In a ranking by HBCU this year, the four top HBCU schools offering fashion programs were: Delaware State University, the University of the District of Columbia, Clark Atlanta University and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
Tapestry is the latest major player to work with HFR to create more educational and career opportunities for young creatives of color. HFR forged a partnership with Louis Vuitton North America to discover, mentor and showcase emerging talents of color through multiplatform, high-visibility events and customized pipeline programs. Supporting HFR by enhancing young talent has proven to be beneficial for fashion powerhouses like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which was the lead sponsor of HFR’s annual Style Awards earlier this month. During that event, zone president and chief executive officer of the Americas Lanessa Elrod described hosting 75 designers as part of HFR’s Designer Retreat earlier this year, noting their hard-hitting questions and how that gathering was “the most inspiring day.”
In February, Tommy Hilfiger announced new efforts to improve diversity in the industry, including a partnership with HFR. In addition, Tommy Hilfiger has another partnership with the Fashion and Race Database that includes an examination of American sportswear through a study of denim, the cotton trade, origins of preppy fashion at HBCUs, among other research topics.
Separately, Polo Ralph Lauren launched a capsule collection with two HBCUs — Morehouse College and Spelman College — earlier this year that honored the history and the sartorial traditions of both institutions with an all-Black everything campaign, featuring Black creatives, and students from the schools as models. Beyond being an homage to collegiate style from the ’20s to the ’50s, the initiative highlighted how the influence of Black college students had in setting style trends.