Amid an ongoing public outcry over social injustices affecting people of color and systemic racism throughout the economy, marketing firm Walker Drawas is looking to have some sort of positive impact where it knows it can: fashion.
With the support of Halle Berry and her longtime stylist Lindsay Flores, both of whom sit on a new advisory board at Walker Drawas, the firm is launching The Brand Lab, giving one to three emerging brands from a Black, indigenous, or person of color founder a full year of support services for free. A partner to the program is DDA, a design, manufacturing and distribution company in Los Angeles, which will give those services for free, too, alongside Walker Drawas’ marketing, placement and strategy support.
“The demand for action and change doesn’t bypass us,” Jennifer Walker, a cofounder of the firm, said. “We have a responsibility as people behind the industry curtain, as the marketers and the publicists behind the brands, to also take action.”
“One of the big things we learned was the need to have a community dialogue, the celebrities, stylists, brands, and a dialogue with our team, and just being able to listen,” Adam Drawas, a firm cofounder, added.
Out of this newfound reliance on speaking with clients and others about what needed to be done to have some positive impact came a conversation with Berry and Flores, who both expressed frustration with how difficult it’s been over the years to even find brands from people of color. From that came the idea to offer a full range of pro bono support to such emerging brands.
For her part, Berry in a statement said the current societal focus on racism in so many industries and sectors of the economy has created a rare opening for change.
“There is a significant opportunity to create resources and guidance for young BIPOC creatives who historically haven’t been granted equitable experiences within their industries.”
She added that programs like The Brand Lab “can help make meaningful change in the fashion industry and beyond.”
“My stylist, Lindsay Flores, and I have always sought out new designers and brands to work with in order to lift up new creatives, and with this program we hope to focus that support directly into seeing their businesses thrive,” said Berry.
As for why it’s historically been harder for brands started by people of color to get a foothold in the industry, Drawas didn’t mince words: “It comes down to systemic racism.”
“Certain people just don’t get the same opportunities as others,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to level the playing field…Being able to just give everybody access by taking away the factor of financing, because it does so often come down to what you can afford.”
He admitted that, of course, there are already brands out there from BIPOC creatives and founders, “but there needs to be more.”
But The Brand Lab is not looking for brands that are just getting off the ground or maybe have not even launched yet. While the program is open to all types of consumer brands, it’s generally looking for ones that have been operating for one to five years and have some fundamental operational skills. Drawas said the program is about “getting them to the next level” and then hopefully, once the year is up, leaving brands in a place where they can afford to pay for services that keep business growing.
After the first year of this program is up, Walker Drawas plans to keep it going, possibly with a new focus on sustainability or another area, but it is not intended to be a limited p.r. response to the issue of the moment.
“We have always worked with a diverse group of clients, our staff is quite diverse. I’m a mother to a biracial son, so these issues have impacted us personally and emotionally,” Walker said. “We want an impactful, full-scope program with longevity.”
Drawas added that his firm has experienced firsthand “racism and homophobia” and that “being socially active will be a through line, really through the rest of our existence.”
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