Spearheaded by the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) of the State University of New York (SUNY), the Social Justice Center at FIT (SJC) will nurture a racially and ethnically diverse talent pipeline, from the middle school classroom to the executive level, that is focused on breaking down systemic barriers and ensuring that BIPOC professionals achieve their full potential.
In addition to the support from founding partners PVH, Capri Holdings Limited, and Tapestry, G-III Apparel Group made the establishing gift to the SJC Scholarship Fund, which already has reached more than $1.5m in contributions. Other industry players have also pledged support, including Carolina Herrera, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Saks, Target, and The Fragrance Foundation.
The SJC at FIT’s approach is supported by four pillars:
- Collaboration among leading corporate and non-profit CEOs who are committed to promoting the talent potential of aspiring BIPOC youth and advancing the careers of BIPOC professionals;
- Access to the talent, creativity, and expertise of FIT faculty and students as resources;
- A sustained commitment to funding support for scholarships and programs;
- Ongoing accountability that will identify and measure the advancement of BIPOC professionals.
Jeffrey Tweedy, former president and CEO of Sean John and an FIT alumnus, will be a special advisor to the FIT president to help build and expand the centre.
“A powerful and much overdue dialogue was sparked last year around diversity and inclusion, which led to a sobering realisation that there was much work to do within the creative industries and at FIT as well. Since then, we have been building a strong foundation for the Social Justice Center at FIT. I am grateful for the early support from PVH, Capri Holdings, Tapestry, G-III Apparel Group, and FIT’s other charter partners. They have demonstrated a formidable commitment to these efforts, and I am confident that the centre is poised to effect meaningful change,” says FIT president Joyce Brown.
Stefan Larsson, CEO of PVH Corp, adds: “This is an incredibly important initiative towards making a real and lasting positive change in the fashion industry, and we are honored to support its launch as a founding partner. The goals for the Social Justice Center align with our own values to foster an environment of inclusion, belonging, and equity for all across the industry. We believe the unique approach of the SJC to provide support at every stage of the career journey will help ensure that promising creative talent in the BIPOC community have the tools they need, as well as a clearer pathway to access and success.”
To reverse the underrepresentation of BIPOC talent in educational institutions, the Social Justice Center at FIT will provide scholarships for middle school, high school, and college students. This support includes pre-college instruction that will help position youth for success by preparing them for college-level study, providing exposure to career opportunities in the creative sector. Once the students are in college, pathways to advancement will be offered through internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships provided by SJC partners.
Concurrently, the SJC partners will work collaboratively with FIT to change the corporate culture and diversify its framework from the ground up. To instill lasting social change, the SJC will promote industry mentorship programmes for employees of colour, share best practices, establish authentic and relevant networks for BIPOC professionals, develop mid-management advancement programs, and commit ongoing efforts to diversify leadership from entry-level to the executive suite and beyond.
An industry advisory council of 16 executives has been established to counsel, collaborate, and help measure progress in achieving equity within the creative industries.
A search is underway to name an executive director of the SJC, who will report to President Brown.
“As a founding member of the Social Justice Center, we are honored to partner with FIT to advance equity and opportunity in the fashion industry and effect real and lasting change,” said Joanne Crevoiserat, CEO of Tapestry, Inc. “At Tapestry, we believe that bringing together different backgrounds and experiences sparks brilliance and that the work of the Social Justice Center will enrich all. We look forward to working closely with FIT to make the fashion world more inclusive by fostering underrepresented perspectives and BIPOC talent who will be the future leaders that drive our industry forward.”