The Fashion Industry II – 10 Years Ago and Not So Long Ago

From Black Enterprise, June 1997:

“The mentality on Seventh Avenue is that blacks can work for the most part in the back rooms,” says Rice. “You have to be an insider to get in. The garment industry is not an outsider business.” Even those who have been relatively successful in the fashion industry believe racism has had an effect on their careers. “I can’t discount the fact that for black designers there might even be some sort of quota system in this business,” notes Lars. “Since Willi Smith and Patrick Kelly [Smith died in 1987 and Kelly in 1990], it’s almost like there’s got to be only one top black designer at a time.”

But Fern Mallis, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, one of the most powerful designer trade associations in the world, says African American designers are equally well respected as are other designers. “From my vantage point I don’t see race being one of the obstacles,” she says. “Talent is talent. When people look at clothing, they most often don’t know who designs it or what color their skin is. The talent shows through in the product. And in our industry, the final product is what people are going after.”


Black designers say another barrier to their success in the industry is a lack of support from African American consumers. While blacks spent almost $20 billion last year on clothes and accessories, only a small fraction of those dollars went to black designers. The vast majority of those dollars went to white store owners and designers. Had just a small portion of those dollars gone to black designers, many of them would have multimillion dollar fashion empires.

“The Patrick Ewings and the Charles Barkleys of the world are steadily getting custom wardrobes from the Donna Karans and the Ralph Laurens of the world,” says New York designer Shaka King, who is also the president and one of the founders of the Black Fashion Collective, an organization formed to support and assist African American designers.

“We need the support of one another,” says Bandele. “You know when you were a child and you used to put your hands together and give your friend a boost over the fence? It’s the same principle. If I’m an entertainer making millions of dollars, I can afford to buy an Armani suit, but Armani doesn’t really need my money and I’d be better serving my community by buying a suit from a Shaka King or an Anthony McIntosh. Blacks, not only entertainers and sports figures, need to spend money in our community and help strengthen it,” explains Bandele.

Shaka King!

The N.B.A. Dress Code

garnett_150_051018.jpg (K.G. on the league’s web site)
From the New York Times:

When the National Basketball Association instituted a business-casual dress code this season, plenty of grumbling ensued among players, commentators and fans alike.

Do not count Bruce Teilhaber among the disgruntled.

As members of the Toronto Raptors descended on the three levels of his family shoe store in downtown Atlanta the other day, Teilhaber came to the telephone to offer his take on the new dress code. For decades, Friedman’s Shoes had been a favorite destination for teams visiting the hometown Hawks. Few stores, after all, carry shoes in sizes 7½ to 22 (a measurement just right for the feet of Shaquille O’Neal).

But the new dress code has increased an already thriving specialty trade. Two days earlier, Teilhaber recounted, the store’s van unloaded players from the Miami Heat after picking them up at the Four Seasons Hotel. Prodded by Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton, Heat veterans and long-time snazzy dressers, the players spent more than $20,000 that day on dress shoes that average about $250 but can soar to $750 for alligator shoes. On similar visits last year, Heat players dropped half as much, many steering clear of the dress shoes for less expensive sneakers.

“If a player’s wearing a $3,000 suit, what’s he going to wear with that?” Teilhaber said before quickly answering his own question. “He’s not going to wear $99 shoes.”

Since the new code has been instituted, few designers have garnered as much business as Elevee

Not everyone has such visceral contempt for Black consumers – at least on the front end.


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