It’s New York Fashion Week: Do you know where your priorities are? Chances are, given all the trauma 2020 has wrought—in addition to far more time spent at home—you may have questioned why we’re even bothering with fashion at this pivotal moment. After all, what good are frivolous pursuits when our climate, democracy and public health are at stake?
But as Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) reminds us, fashion is bigger than clothes. She has been advocating for designers of color for well over a decade, placing her well ahead of the fashion industry’s woke new trend of “all-Black-everything.” In fact, as both a friend and longtime collaborator of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Daniel’s 13-year-old gala and annual runway show helped kick off a very forward-thinking Fashion Week on Sunday, with a theme that aptly reminded us: “Black Is the New Black.”
“There are so many things going on that are absolutely heartbreaking,” Daniel acknowledged in a discussion with The Glow Up following HFR’s deeply moving, documentary-style 2020 presentation.”I can see how someone would just look on the surface and say, you know, why or why do we care about fashion at this point? And I’ve even gone through those sentiments myself throughout this process. But it’s not the fashion that we’re really pushing, in this case, it’s really the design entrepreneurs...This is their livelihood.”
Making note of the often negative comments received by designers and fashion industry folk alike in this already fraught time (which we are all too familiar with here at The Glow Up), Daniel further pointed out that the criticism disproportionately targets designers of color. “I have a question: Are you writing the same comments under your favorite luxury designers?” she asked. “Are you writing the same comments under, you know, all the department stores that you love?”
Certainly, the fashion industry has profited enough from capitalizing on Black culture and influence; and in a year in which so many entrepreneurs have lost their businesses and incomes, Daniel rallied support to sustain the up-and-comers in her community, and help make them self-sustaining. She not only staged a series of virtual events and workshops to educate and increase networking but formed Icon 360, a philanthropic nonprofit which garnered a $1 million grant from CFDA/Vogue’s own newly-formed nonprofit, A Common Thread.
“When the pandemic happened, we knew we had to do something to really support designers of color,” she explained. “And we’re so grateful for the CFDA and Vogue for coming through with that one million dollar donation. It has been such a blessing for designers.”
Designers Kristian Lorén, Rich Fresh, and Kimberly Goldson were blessed with being this year’s featured designers for HFR’s now-global presentation (as well as designers of HFR’s upcoming collaboration with children’s line Janie & Jack). Daniel, her team, and an extended “village” of veteran fashion folk—including scriptwriter Emil Wilkebin (former editor-in-chief of Vibe), narration by legendary fashion show producer Audrey Smaltz, and appearances by Dapper Dan, Bevy Smith, Misa Hylton and more—carefully crafted this year’s virtual gala and to be an extension of the “Black fashion family reunion” industry insiders have long since come to know and love as HFR’s annual gala.
In addition to distributing a series of monetary awards, HFR also recognized several industry trailblazers with awards, all of whom accepted their awards onscreen this year: British Vogue Editor in Chief Edward Enninful; Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner; fashion publicist Nate Hinton; and 2020 CFDA American Menswear of the Year Award winner Kerby Jean-Raymond, who was honored onscreen by Tracee Ellis Ross. It was an event not to be missed—and you needn’t: “Black Is the New Black” re-airs this Sunday, September 29.