The Black in Fashion Council Promises to Hold the Industry Accountable

Its founders want to move beyond cancelation and toward change.

Black in Fashion Council
Photo: Courtesy

As Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets throughout June, social media posts featuring black squares and promises of solidarity from corporations — especially those in the fashion and beauty industry — filled our feeds. It was largely performative, and didn't reflect the deeply entrenched issues that Black people in the industry face on a regular basis. In the comments of these posts, many problems were revealed as employees told stories of racist microaggressions and lack of upward mobility. Founders and CEOs at brands like Reformation and stepped down after being called out, while others posted apologies and promises to do better.

Although these are great first steps, it's clear that there needs to be a way to hold brands accountable in the future. That's where the Black in Fashion Council, founded by Lindsay Peoples Wagner (Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief) and Sandrine Charles (owner of Sandrine Charles Consulting), comes in. After seeing the need for a new system in order to spark change, the longtime friends decided to launch the Council, which will essentially provide a yearly report card for brands regarding Black representation and inclusivity. They're also working with the Human Rights Campaign, which already has a Corporate Equality Index for the LGBTQ+ community.

"We pulled together a group of our peers who are senior-level in the industry to talk about how we can come together to unify across all categories, and to create an opportunity for people to have the change they've been fighting for over the years," Charles tells InStyle. She adds that these are issues that Black people in the industry have been fighting against for decades, and it's something Peoples Wagner pointed out in a 2018 The Cut article, "Everywhere and Nowhere: What it’s really like to be black and work in fashion," which highlighted the experiences of 100 Black fashion professionals.

"It's been almost two years since that story came out," Peoples Wagner says. "So, how do we now reconcile with a lot of the things that are happening in the world, and changes that still haven't occurred in fashion and in the beauty industry as well?"

They two agree that they want to move beyond just canceling people and brands, instead giving them guidelines and resources to make the changes that are needed.

"This really came from the fact that we want to move from canceling people to holding them accountable, and giving them ways to really feel like they can change," she explains. "They shouldn't be afraid of that. They can have conversations in order for there to be productive and positive change."

The council will have an executive board headed up by top industry professionals such as celebrity stylist Jason Rembert and GQ Fashion Director Nikki Ogunnaike. Outside of that, individual stakeholders across fashion and beauty, including Jessica Andrews, Leah Faye Cooper, Mecca James-Williams, and Tamu Mcpherson, will take on different roles as the council develops.

"We want to streamline the effort because you don't want 80 different initiatives and people shouting different things at the same time. If we do that, then we won't make any progress forward," Peoples Wagner says. She adds, "It has to be nuanced. I think there are so many different problems that you can't just blanket them all. That's why we're also having this conversation with the executive board to specifically identify what target areas they really feel are realistic and practical to change right now. Then [we'll ask], 'What things should we be pushing brands to change in the next year?' Because those are going to be different things based on what opportunities they have and what their budget is."

Outside of working with brands, the council also seeks to create an education and mentorship program to help young professionals. While they haven't announced any brands that they are working with, those conversations are definitely happening. "We're talking to a couple of brands now and we're expanding," Charles says.

The Black in Fashion Council launches on July 1. In the meantime, you can check out their progress via the website or Instagram page.

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