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In a society that far too often undervalues yet capitalizes off the works of Black designers, Harlem’s Fashion Row is working to ensure that instances like that are no longer the norm. “We’re an agency that acts as a bridge between brands and designers of color,” HFR founder Brandice Daniel tells BET Digital. “We do that by providing brands with strategy pipeline programs, experiential marketing and collaborations.”
And the brand has done just that, amplifying countless Black creatives and empowering their success through creating means of financial equity, offering a wider reach, and overall giving people of color a real chance at success in the fashion industry. The list, truly goes on. “I don't even think I've taken in everything that HFR has done,” Daniel shares. “It's difficult because I'm still constantly doing the work and still figuring out the solution to so many problems, you know? We’re trying to really be a solution in an industry, but it's almost like an onion. You peel off one layer and you think that if these designers get press and media, and get picked up by a department store then everything will be great. Then, I discover another layer and that designer calls me in tears because of the payment terms from the department store, or they need financing to actually cover them for this particular opportunity.”
That’s why, Daniel continues to align HFR with corporate sponsors who understand the plights of Black designers. “Gap Inc, is one of our brand partners and they are really doing it right,” she says. “I know the CEO of their company, and they’re so invested that they get this right. They've signed up for the Blacks In Fashion Pledge, they recently signed the Fifteen Percent Pledge, and they’ve been supporters of Harlem's Fashion Row long before it was the cool thing to do.” Brandice also notes Nike as another brand invested in the success of her agency. “We did the Serena Williams' Design Crew with them and that was a way for them to start to recruit designers outside of the traditional kind of fashion schools or design schools,” she says. “They ended up hiring one guy who we brought to the table through HFR who had never been in fashion school. So both of those brands have been willing to take risks and do things in a way that's not traditional.”
But in an industry that still needs a lot of work, Daniel admits that she has to look on the bright side to not get discouraged. “It's easy to stay encouraged when your purpose for what you're doing is not about you,” she says. “Harlem's Fashion Row has not, and has never been about Brandice Daniel. So because I know that what I'm doing is so much bigger than me, it's easier to stay encouraged.” She also says her faith plays an integral role. “I have a prayer partner who I've been praying with now for over 20 years. Ultimately, I want to empower other people and I want to set the stage for the generations to come. I want people to know that when you understand what your why is, it's much easier to stay uplifted because you'll hold on to that when all of the opposition comes.”
Follow Harlem’s Fashion Row on Instagram @harlemsfashionrow.