PRESS / RELEASE
The Fashion industry has come under fire for an absence of Black presence on the runways and on the pages of glossy magazines, but those behind the scenes know that the unspoken “ban on Black” originates within design studios where the exclusion of Black talent has quietly become industry standard. The time has come to address the disproportionate Black unemployment that goes unaddressed within the Fashion design community as well as how the lack of Black designers working at the upper management and executive levels within mainstream brands can result in incidents like H&M’s recent “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” snafu.
Veteran designer/writer, Kibwe Chase-Marshall began attempting to spark conversation around this issue last year but felt silenced by editors for whom he had contributed regularly. As the new year began, on Jan. 3rd he posted on Instagram regarding his attempts to publish an op-ed about the systemic discrimination faced by Black designers attempting to work for mainstream brands. Fashionista.com, for whom he was a long-time contributor, offered initially "we're gonna pass" regarding this story. What struck Chase-Marshall as odd was that the outlet had devoted coverage to the analogous subject of gender-based discrimination in and among the fashion design community. Why were they so reluctant to cover race discrimination?
He decided to let the public be the judge of the issue’s newsworthiness, and his related IG post (liked by respected industry insiders like American Vogue’s Chioma Nnadi, Balance Diversity’s Bethann Hardison, and buzz-worthy designer Rosie Assoulin) garnered an opportunity to publish the aforementioned op-ed in the Business of Fashion extended by the media outlet's editor-in-chief, Imran Amed. Shared industry-wide, the piece attracted the attention of veteran model/writer Veronica Webb who penned thoughtful coverage regarding the op-ed and its focus for The Root.
Concurrently, Chase-Marshall’s campaign surfaced on the radar of Van Jones' organization, Color Of Change and they reached out to partner on direct letters to execs and then a petition that would charge the CFDA and Vogue with implementing the actionable plan for creating industry change, offered within the op-ed's concluding proposal.
The #BreakSilenceBreakCeilings petition has garnered over 25,000 signatures to date.
On March 1st, 2018 Color Of Change hand delivered a second round of letters to the CFDA (each containing a 1-minute hourglass symbolizing the amount of time it should have taken the organization to respond to this call to action regarding combating race-based employment discrimination). Steven Kolb responded, but effectively dodged all acknowledgment of the industries well known patterns of anti-Black employment discrimination. He also evaded requests to schedule an in person meeting with Mr. Chase-Marshall and Color of Change.
Mr. Chase-Marshall's recent correspondence (independently and via Color of Change) with the CFDA, doesn’t confirm a meeting date and makes it appear that the CFDA is delaying such a call-to-reckoning until after their annual awards ceremony (hosted this year by Issa Rae on June 4th). This disturbingly disregards the realities of the many Black designers that continue to go without equitable opportunities to access work daily.
Please direct inquiries and requests for interviews to Kibwe Chase-Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Time’s Up: Facing the Reality of Black Talent in the Design Industry” by Shirine Saad, NowFashion.com
“The Conversations: Talking about Race Issues in Fashion” w/ Jason Campbell, Henrietta Galetta and guest Kibwe Chase-Marshall, The Conversations
“Why Aren’t Black Designers Given the Recognition They Deserve?” by Taylor Bryant, Nylon.com
“Fashion Has a Black People Problem” by Henrietta Gallina, JasonCampbellStudio.com
"The Real Work" by Kibwe Chase-Marshall, Medium
"Andre and Me" by Kibwe Chase-Marshall, Medium