By Robert Marshall Jr.
With an unprecedented focus on rectifying generations of systemic racism across many industries in the U.S.A., not just law enforcement, fashion is top of the list. Having long exploited Black culture, fashion designers, retailers, consumers and the like are speaking out and demanding change. Among them is Brother Vellies Founder Aurora James, who this past week established the 15 Percent Pledge, calling on retailers like Net-a-Porter and Amazon to commit 15 percent of their shelf space to black-owned businesses.
“We are all trying to figure out at every level what we can do to help. There are real and serious changes that need to happen across this country,” James told WWD in an exclusive interview. “The first thing I’m asking for is economic equality. As a business owner and retailer myself, I’ve seen the devastation Black business owners have been dealt. During the pandemic they are the demographic most likely to be closing businesses during this time. If retailers commit, this represents a lot of money and is profitable.” The Pledge’s website states that it could generate upwards of $14.5 billion USD for the Black community.
James is asking businesses to take a three-step approach as they consider adapting her pledge: “to audit and take stock of black support in a store’s designer or business roster; to admit wrongdoing and space for improvement, and to then set realistic targets toward increasing support of the black community.”
Despite only launching last week, James and the 15 Percent Pledge are already in discussions with companies like Rent the Runway and Heyday. James is even in talks with some publications to devote more coverage to Black creatives. Even Instagram followers are offering their time to help audit retailers’ and assess their commitment to black-owned businesses.
“It’s not about attacking, it’s about doing the work, it’s about saying ‘This is where we are at,’” James told WWD. “We all have made mistakes, it’s not about posting a diversion — it’s about owning it.”
Head to 15percentpledge.org now to learn more and sign the petition.