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The fashion industry is a global industry that has a significant impact on society and culture, yet it is still largely dominated by a primarily white workforce. The lack of diversity in the industry has been a long-standing issue that has hindered progress and innovation. Fortunately, there are organizations that are fighting to change that, such as the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC).
Founded just two years ago, after Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the editor-in-chief of The Cut, wrote a critically acclaimed article about being Black in the fashion industry. In 2020, she helped found the BIFC with entrepreneur Sandrine Charles. BIFC’s mission is to represent and secure the advancement of Black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry, envisioning a workforce where Black people are represented and amplified at every level. BIFC believes that by building a foundation for inclusivity, it can promote a Black Renaissance in the fashion industry.
“We envision workforces where Black people are represented and amplified at every level, holding jobs in both C-suite and junior-level positions, and can work alongside allies to create diverse spaces that directly reflect what the world actually looks like at large.”
During New York Fashion Week, The BIFC holds an annual dinner celebrating Black changemakers within fashion and media. Lindsay Peoples Wagner explains, “This is one of those events for us that was really important because we don’t get to get these kinds of people together in one room to celebrate each other and the love that we have for all the Black people in the industry who have supported other Black people and made the industry what it is today. This is our love letter.” BIFC designers such as JEOFROI, Ellaé Lisqué, Madamette, TORLOWEI, Made By Ciriaco, Oak & Acorn, CISE, Sincerely Ria, and Diotima sold opulence and visualized the importance of giving back to their community with their collections at New York Fashion Week 2023, where many of the designers paid homage to their origins and the struggles faced across the diaspora to get recognition in the fashion industry. The pandemic saw many of these brands go viral, with efforts to support black designers who are relatively new to the industry. Since then, BIFC has been steadfast in showcasing black designers who are making a difference and building an authentic community.
Equipped with industry events, scholarship opportunities, and a Black creatives directory, the BIFC has successfully paved the way for inclusivity-driven organizations and events, especially during Fashion Week. Their website states, “By organizing a resilient group of editors, models, stylists, media executives, assistants, freelance creatives, and industry stakeholders, we aim to build a new foundation for inclusivity.”
For the BIFC, inclusivity has always been important, and they believe that for change to occur, non-Black brands, publications, and people of influence must examine the roles they’ve played in either helping or hurting Black people who work in these spaces. “Inclusivity was always something that was important to Sandrine and me even before we even started Black in Fashion Council. So everything we’re doing now, it’s always been about diversity, equity, and inclusivity for us,” Peoples explained.
One of the most gratifying things for Sandrine Charles, one of the co-founders of BIFC, has been helping others. “We are lucky enough to have worked through the last decade-plus in our careers, networking and building relationships, and we’re really passing the baton in a sense and creating bridges for those people who don’t necessarily have them,” she said.
The BIFC is a great example of how organizations can champion inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry. It is through such efforts that we can build a new foundation for inclusivity and promote a Black Renaissance in the fashion industry. The Council is made up of both an Advisory Board and an Executive Board, which is split up into smaller categories of people, such as Media, Beauty, Model Representation, Corporate Brand, Stylist, Creative Direction and Artist Representation; Retail, Influencer and Talent, Education, Community Engagement, Mentorship, and even Fundraising. This structure ensures that the BIFC is inclusive and represents a wide range of perspectives and experiences.