Ahead of the July Fourth weekend and the multimedia marathon that was Essence Fest 2019, where we connected with groundbreaking fashion luminaries like Dapper Dan in New Orleans, New York-based incubator Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) was doing what it does best: inspiring and empowering the next wave of designers of color.
In partnership with Nike, HFR launched its first designer retreat in New York City, hosting dozens of designers from across the country for a three-day immersive, intergenerational experience.
Per a release:
Brandice Daniel, founder of HFR wanted to provide designers of color a crash course on how to make it in the fashion industry. Out of 100 applicants, 75 designers from different level of experience walked the streets of New York visiting Google, Dapper Dan’s Atelier in Harlem, Nike, [the] CFDA office, Intermix, GAP, Essence magazine and other companies.
In the process, aspirants got to rub shoulders and glean insights from fashion insiders like designer Aurora James, Essence Global Fashion Director Julee Wilson, and many more, exploring the topics essential to every label’s success: “Designer Highlight: How I Made It;” “Managing Production & Finding Manufacturers;” “The Retail Reveal: How to Get into Retail;” and “Gaining and Leveraging Press.”
Daniel, a fashion lover-turned-influencer who was recently lauded as a “changemaker” in Essence’s July issue, has been at the forefront of championing new talents of color for over a decade, and her tenacity and dedication has paid off for the designers she’s taken under her wing. Recently, her efforts resulted in a coveted partnership with the CFDA. And in 2018, Harlem’s Fashion Row and Nike released the instantly sold out HFR x LeBron 16, the first women’s shoe from LeBron James’ collaboration with Nike, co-designed by Daniel’s flagship black female designers Undra Celeste, Kimberly Goldson, and Fe Noel.
And proving the power of HFR’s support, after garnering attention in the organization’s annual New York Fashion Week runway presentation, Noel is now enjoying an opportunity most designers dream of—let alone the less than one percent of designers of color who make it to the floors of major department stores (h/t HFR). Impressed by the designer’s aesthetic, Bloomingdale’s invited Noel to create a Lion King-inspired capsule collection in honor of the release of the Disney reboot, available now online and in select locations. Named “Style Kingdom,” the collection (ranging from $356-$536) highlights Noel’s sensual, earthy signature style, with a savanna-inspired flair.
As Daniel wrote, celebrating the collection’s release on Instagram:
When HFR first started 12 years ago, one of our biggest goals was to connect designers of color to retail opportunities. After finding out that less than 1% of designers sold in major department stores were of color, I knew this was a problem I couldn’t ignore.
For years we had conversations with multiple department stores and retailers in pursuit of changing this disparity. Although we sparked lots of conversations for change, we had yet to accomplish this one goal. But last fall, we got a call from Nicole Cokely at @bloomingdales. One of their amazing executives, @klharter , attended our NYFW show as a guest of the CFDA (thank you @stevenkolb). He wanted to meet with HFR alumna designer, @fenoel, after seeing her collection at our show.
So we set up a meeting and we left that first meeting with an idea: let’s introduce Fe Noel’s collection at The Carousel for the launch of Bloomingdale’s partnership with The Lion King!
Well, I could not be more excited to announce that Fe Noel has launched a capsule collection on the Bloomingdale’s website, as well as in the Bloomingdale’s 59th st location!
It just goes to show the power that can come from supporting and promoting our own. Daniel’s vision and belief in black female talent, in particular—perhaps the most underrepresented demographic in luxury fashion’s ranks—are paying off, as Noel seems poised for a breakthrough. To paraphrase the words of one of The Lion King’s famous songs, “Can you feel the love?”