Niiamar Felder
Niiamar Felder Gown and Greeting Card Illustration

At least once a week, as I go about my work as a fashion designer, I find myself thinking, “I really have to write the book ‘The Miseducation of Fashion’.” Presently, the fashion industry is all abuzz about diversity & inclusion, cultural appropriation and fear of the cancel culture. As much as there is a sense of hope that the racial discrimination and inequality incidences in the industry will cease, we are going to have to take the long and bumpy journey for that change to be the norm.

There is a certain amount of navigation needed to become a full-time working professional in fashion if you are black, and that is a fact. There is a status quo, an unspoken social policy on how you ascend in the business, and for people of color it is a much windier ladder that is also missing a few rungs. The talk about the injustice of it all is happening but, no one is showing clear pathways on how to get to that Vogue cover. Even their editor-in-chief’s apology in June 2020 for not giving black creatives access to opportunities came a little too late, with black industry veterans seeing this as D&I washing, and emerging creatives more interested in new, innovative and inclusive platforms. Despite the pandemic and global lockdown, the resurgence of the ‘buy black’ fashion business in 2020, catalyzed by the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement, is here to stay with buy in from corporate America. This unintended consequence forced the industry to delve further into the reasons behind the cancel culture and cultural misappropriation misuses.

Aside from limited access to networks and opportunities for people of color, there is an educational gap, with black and brown students having limited exposure to learning centered on design thinking and the creative arts as a whole. There are many factors that keep the gap getting wider, but one that really sticks out is the lack of design-centric supplemental after-school educational programs in underserved black communities.

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