LaQuan Smith Revolve

Revolve has launched a mentorship program dedicated to its Black-owned and -designed brands.

“It was really in response to the 15 percent challenge,” said chief executive officer Michael Mente, who cofounded the brand in Los Angeles in 2003 alongside Michael Karanikolas. “It’s like, ‘Where do we stack up? Where are we?’ What we quickly realized is that with our existing roster from a number basis, there is solid representation. From a percentage basis, there’s a long way to go. We’ll be the first to admit there’s a long way to go.”

Revolve has yet to join the 15 Percent Pledge — Brother Vellies founder and creative director Aurora James’ call on major retailers to commit a minimum of 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. The company says it has been “in touch” with the organization.

The fashion and beauty e-tailer carries between 500 and 600 brands, of which roughly 80 percent are designed by emerging creators. Along with introducing a new section of its site dedicated to showcasing Black-owned and -designed brands, the company’s program aims to provide resources to support and grow the brands. There are 25 Black-owned and -designed brands featured on Revolve.com — a range, from Virgil Abloh’s Off-White to Trinity Mouzon Wofford’s wellness brand Golde — making it between 4 percent and 5 percent of overall representation. Revolve says that number will grow in coming months.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement last year, the company met with 154 Black-owned brands across ready-to-wear, shoes, beauty and accessories to potentially add to its roster, said Raissa Gerona, its chief brand officer. Of those brands, 30 joined Revolve and have access to the new program — which is available to all its Black creators and officially kicks off next week.

“There was a surprising number of brands, dozens and dozens of brands, that were interesting but weren’t in a position to do business with us in a way that was meaningful to both of us, whether it’s a struggling designer with incredible product but no inventory to sell or no new collection,” Mente said. “Just in general, we work with hundreds and hundreds of brands, but there is a lot of turnover over a given year. There are brands that will come from nowhere and be super successful but brands that will struggle and that we’ll try to work with but don’t gain success, or even brands that we do well with that still, especially in a challenging period, go out of business. Of course, this year was particularly notable for that. So, we thought that this first phase here with this mentorship program — starting with us devoting our time on a personal level and our expertise to ensure that these brands are thriving — would be the logical first place to start.”

While Revolve has assisted emerging Black-owned brands such as LaQuan Smith and Sami Miro Vintage with in-house marketing efforts in the past, the company will now work closely across departments with creators in the program to provide mentorship and a long list of resources in various areas including sales and analytics with monthly sales data insights, quarterly merchandising strategies, access to brand page traffic and on-site search ranking, as well as to its more than 7,500 global influencers, social media analytics, press support, pre-production planning, pricing strategy, factory sourcing, assistance with accounting and finance — essentially every aspect of brand building. This comes following criticism that the e-tailer lacked diversity, even sparking the #revolvesowhite reaction on social media.

“Working with Revolve for the past year has been an incredible experience both to me personally as a luxury designer and to my brand as a whole,” Smith said in a statement. “The freedom and ability to create capsule collections that directly target my customer and their price point is an opportunity most do not get. Revolve has always trusted my vision from design to activations and is a true collaborator in an industry known for dictating.”

Revolve started small with an entrepreneurial spirit, which is why Mente believes the company is uniquely positioned to offer insight.

“We understand what it takes to succeed…how to scale,” he said. “That founder mentality gives us a very special insight to talk to these founders and entrepreneurs in a genuine and real way.”

If the program goes well, Revolve will expand to include other designers and owners of color.

“This is a way that leverages our size and scale, as well as our experience and time in ways that will hopefully result in strong good that will pay it forward and continue,” Mente said. “Not just one-time change but ongoing change.”

Revolve didn’t comment on the current number of Black employees on its own staff, noting in a statement: “Diversity, inclusion and ensuring equal representation company-wide is a top priority for us. We have a very diverse employee base in many ways, but we also acknowledge that we have more work to do.”

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