The Council of Fashion Designers of America is launching Impact, a platform that aims to identify, connect, support and nurture Black creatives and professionals in fashion.
CFDA Impact aims to address the decades-long system of exclusion of Black talent in the fashion industry with the goal of creating a blueprint for other industries to follow. The intention is to connect CFDA’s 450-plus members, fashion-adjacent companies, fashion institutions and nonprofit and university partners, and a network of industry professionals across disciplines and levels to full- and part-time jobs, freelance opportunities and paid internships.
“This work is essential to the future of American fashion, which must be diverse, equitable and inclusive,” said CaSandra Diggs, president of the CFDA. “The CFDA is proud to take the lead in this important effort for the industry and beyond. We launch Impact with a specific focus on widening talent pipelines and advancing career development for Black and brown creatives and professionals. In the future, we will further the initiative to also address other inequities within the fashion system.”
CFDA collaborated with Creatively on the talent directory, as well as CFDA’s Black Advisory Board.
CFDA’s Black Advisory Board, which has helped it as the organization at last begins to move to address the lack of racial diversity in the industry, includes Samira Nasr, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar; Bozoma Saint John, chief marketing officer of Netflix; Stacie Henderson, Tod’s Group U.S. head of e-commerce and digital, and CFDA member Martin Cooper. Tracy Reese is executive board vice chairwoman.
“I am so proud to be a part of CFDA at this pivotal moment in our industry’s evolution,’ said Reese, who is behind the sustainable brand Hope for Flowers. “CFDA, the Impact team and generous partners are dedicated to rolling out programming that is thoughtful, nuanced and targeted to achieve measurable sustainable and positive change in fashion. We hope this groundbreaking work will set the trend for other industries.” Reese spoke about the Impact platform at Harlem’s Fashion Row on Thursday, as reported.
Gregory Gittrich, chief executive officer of Creatively, added, “Creatively is committed to nurturing a community that truly reflects the diversity across the full spectrum of the creative world, and we know that Black and brown creatives in particular are often underserved. We’re fortunate to be partnering with the CFDA on this important initiative, with the goal of creating more opportunities for Black and brown creatives and professionals at top brands.”
According to Diggs, Impact will be open to everyone, not just CFDA members. For CFDA members, the platform will be free through 2022, and for non-CFDA members, there will be a nominal charge, with half the subscription fee going to the CFDA Foundation, which supports the internship matching grant fund.
There are two components, said Diggs. On the talent side, they will be selecting talent from industry professionals and higher education, and some untapped avenues such as Historically Black Universities and Colleges and CUNYs and SUNYs. She said they are trying to put the best talent from Black creatives on the platform. On the other side, there are brands that will join Impact to engage with the talent. They aim to create opportunity for some direct engagement through workshops and classes that are on Creatively. “It gives an opportunity for the brands to widen their talent pipeline and engage with talent, and it also provides the talent the opportunity to be spotlighted and gives themselves voice and visibility to the brands,” said Diggs.
For example, design students can put their profiles up as creatives and professionals can post their résumé. “It’s targeting professionals of color, but everyone is welcome to join the platform,” said Diggs.
CFDA is conducting an outreach program to colleges and universities, some of which it already has relationships with through its scholarship programming and graduate showcase programming. “We will be continuing our relationships with those schools, and we will be extending our relationships to HBCUs and CUNY and SUNY,” said Diggs. She said it’s a national program.
“As many schools we can engage with, we will be engaging with. The goal is to get as much diverse talent that we can to join the platform and provide them the visibility of jobs and opportunities, whether that be freelance, internships, full-time and part-time positions, and provide the brands the opportunity to engage with the talent and try to remove the concern that there’s not enough talent available,” said Diggs. She said photographers and all creative disciplines are included, as well as executives.
The platform goes live on Friday, and through the rest of the year, they will be onboarding more brands and talent. There will be an Impact landing page on CFDA.com, which takes the user to Creatively and other assets, said Diggs.
They are not targeting headhunters, although many of the brands work with them. “We are very much wanting to make this a community and network, so we’re trying to get talent to engage with brands directly,” she said. Internships will be offered at the launch, and mentorships will be added later.
There will also be resources for professional growth and development on Impact. The platform is expected to serve as a data collection tool to measure and inform industry commitment to diversity.
Asked what she hopes Impact will accomplish, Diggs said, “I’m hoping ultimately it will be a more diverse and inclusive industry. We’re starting at point A. This is an ongoing process, this is a decades-long issues. It’s going to take time to get to where we want to be, but we certainly will get there. Our ultimate goal is to get the brands on the platform and the talent on the platform, and sustain the engagement between the two entities and keep a flow of talent in the pipeline so that ultimately that talent enters into these organizations, and they get the development they need in order to advance and go to other levels and eventually the C-suite and the boardroom,” said Diggs.
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