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Harlem's Fashion Row - Runway - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Source: Slaven Vlasic / Getty

Black people have always been fly. But now aspiring designers at HBCUs are getting a boost via Harlem’s Fashion Row and Tapestry, the parent company behind Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade, and Coach. Tapestry and Harlem’s Fashion Row are partnering with Kate Spade to provide HBCUs with direct access to the behind-the-scenes staff and infrastructure that provides the fuel for these classic brands.

The three-year partnership encompasses Harlem’s Fashion Row’s HBCU Summit, which began in 2020. The initiative plans to upgrade fashion and design programs at HBCUs nationwide to better prepare students for a career in design. The partnership with Kate Spade begins at Maryland’s Bowie State University, the state’s oldest HBCU. After three years, the program will expand to include Coach and Stuart Weitzman.

“With Tapestry’s overwhelming support for our core initiative, to holistically prepare Gen-Z for fashion’s workforce with comprehensive programming, I’m confident, together, we can provide scholars with an opportunity to thrive in an incredibly transformative externship experience,” Brandice Daniel, CEO, and founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row said in a statement. “The industry is vying for change, but we can only be most innovative when Black talent is included.”

This is the latest triumph for Daniel, who founded Harlem’s Fashion Row in 2007 to address inequities in fashion design. The Fashion Institute of Technology graduate has worked to connect Black designers with the industry by amplifying, showcasing, and funding their work. In May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, she launched ICON360, to raise money for designers of color, which has received over $1.6M of startup funding so far.

“Companies can’t just move on a short-term solution,” Daniel told Vogue in 2020. “It’s not about saying, ‘Okay, we see the systemic racism, and we know that it’s been going on for the last 50 years in our company and we’re going to try and put a quick Band-Aid on this so that we can move on.’ “

 

Via the Tapestry partnership, Daniel has achieved one of her goals for sustainable, concrete action by major fashion companies. Tapestry will fund Bowie State’s Senior Capstone Fashion Show and provide access to Kate Spade’s major players, including Liz Fraser, chief executive officer and brand president, Kristen Naiman, SVP of brand concept and strategy, Tom Mora, SVP and head of design, RTW & lifestyle categories, Jennifer Lyu, SVP and head of design, leather goods and accessories, and Tapestry’s David Casey, chief inclusion and social impact officer, to work along with Bowie State University professors.

Exclusive courses called ‘Tenacity Talks’ started at Bowie on Sep. 27 and will go through the spring semester, with topics including:

  • The History of Kate Spade and Tapestry
  • Kate Spade Accessory Design 101
  • Concept, Print, and Color
  • How to Build the Bones of a Brand
  • RTW, Shoes, Jewelry, Eyewear
  • Materials For Accessory Design
  • Mental Health and The Fashion Industry.

Spade’s eponymous company, which she started in 1993, is well-known for its affordable chic line of handbags and accessories, which expanded into apparel, home accessories, and more. Unfortunately, its founder died by suicide at age 55 in 2018 after struggling with depression and anxiety for years. The company has continued to build on its initial successes by providing an entry into high fashion but keeping the brand relatively affordable. Inclusivity is part of their commitment to Spade’s legacy.

“At kate spade new york, we have built a community around cultivating authentic and emotional connections with our customers based on how we meet their individual needs,” Fraser said in a statement. “We are aiming to foster a truly inclusive environment – both internally and externally – where people from all backgrounds and experiences can thrive, because we know that we are at our best when we embrace and celebrate diverse perspectives. We are committed to investing in and supporting diverse talent and are excited to bring this partnership to life with Harlem’s Fashion Row – an organization we have long respected as a pioneer in the industry – alongside our parent company, Tapestry.”