Bethann Hardison Introduces Designers Hub

Helping out and increasing the visibility of young brands and designers of color.

After the nationwide protests and marches calling for social justice erupted around the country and the world, activists and innovators across industries have been pushing for systemic changes and supporting Black leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs.

The fashion industry is no exception — enter the Designers Hub, a group consisting of 25 to 30 young brands and designers of color that works under the umbrella of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). With the help of proven industry advisors such as designers Partick Robinson and Tracy Reese, activist and former model Bethann Hardison started this fashion business initiative as a follow-up to all the work she has been doing behind the scenes: lobbying brands, casting directors, designers and fashion authorities for more diversified designer runways, advertising and editorial content. “To change society, I wanted people to visibly see color so they would become very used to it,” she shared in her interview with WWD. “It would help to change all industries — and it has. You start to see more Blacks and browns in the magazines, on the covers and on television shows.”

Among the Designers Hub members are Ashya’s Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, Edas’ Sade Mims, Romeo Hunte, Studio One Eighty-Nine’s Abrima Erwiah, Christopher John Rogers, Fe Noel, Kenneth Nicholson, Sergio Hudson, Sukeina’s Omar Salam and others. Together, they are learning the ins and outs of wholesale, building an e-commerce site or what retailers look for in a collection, all while getting frank and practical insights from professionals. “My objective is to make businesses stronger — young brands, young Black brands specifically,” Hardison said. “The reason I had to go down that road was I got tired of people saying to me, ‘Where’s the Black designer?’ I used to say all the time, ‘They’re around.’ It’s just not that everybody is going to be Virgil Abloh, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t in business and doing business.”

Once the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the group’s monthly meetings were temporarily suspended; in June, they reconvened and are now connecting more frequently, helping fashion businesses that were significantly impacted by the lockdown and uplifting those who have received greater interest in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Next up is their very own website, which will be developed with bios about the participating designers. Three of the participating companies — Fe Noel, Studio One Eighty-Nine and Sukeina — are also slated to get additional mentoring through Vogue and the CFDA.

The Designers Hub seeks to help Black creatives in the fashion industry on many levels. Though very supportive of Hardison, Robison expressed that he is “a bit skeptical” about the sustainability of the movement and how much the industry can change. “People like Bethann are going to make sure that people are held accountable — that you can’t just show it this month and then September and October come and you go back to your old policies and old practices,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in Bethann to lead the call. She has a very big voice that carries and people listen. But I don’t think we’ve walked down the path far enough. I’m 100 percent sure that we’re not there yet. We have a lot of work to do. A lot.”

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