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CFDA Announces Initiatives to Combat Systemic Racism in Fashion

"Our industry is in pain and it is not enough to simply say that we stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against. We must do something."

Over the past several days, amid outcries for justice in the deaths of Black people at the hands of police, many individuals working in fashion have spoken out against the industry's long-standing history of racism. Some have offered suggestions on how to fix it (like Aurora James's call on retailers to stock 15% black-owed businesses); others called on publications and companies to diversify their staffs. On Thursday, the American fashion industry's governing body, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), announced its plan to bring about "systemic" change. 

In a letter signed by Tom Ford and Steven Kolb and sent to members of the industry, as well as in an Instagram post, the organization shared that it had a board meeting Tuesday and had come up with four initiatives that it says will be undertaken "immediately." 

"Having a clear voice and speaking out against racial injustice, bigotry and hatred is the first step, but this is not enough. This is a deeply disturbing moment that speaks to us all," it reads. "Our world is in deep pain. Our industry is in pain and it is not enough to simply say that we stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against. We must do something."

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The organization laid out a bulleted list of the initiatives, which are: 

  • The CFDA will create an in-house employment program specifically charged with placing Black talent in all sectors of the fashion business to help achieve a racially balanced industry. This program will be tasked with identifying Black creatives and pairing these individuals with companies looking to hire.
  • The CFDA will also create a mentorship program and an internship program focused on placing Black students and recent graduates within established companies in the fashion sector.
  • The CFDA will implement and make available to our members a Diversity and Inclusion training program.
  • We will make immediate contributions and take up fundraising activities in support of charitable organizations aimed at equalizing the playing field for the Black community such as, but not limited to the NAACP and Campaign Zero - amongst others.

The letter concludes by Ford and Kolb urging CFDA members to "take stock of their corporate structure to ensure that they have a racially balanced workforce," then challenging retailers to "ensure that their roster of brands and their product assortment is representative of the Black talent within the industry."

While the CFDA has shared resources about the industry's need for diversity and inclusion in the past, this seems to be the first time it's addressing the Black community directly and announcing its own programs improve their representation within fashion companies.

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