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The Fashion Industry Is Getting A Revamp Through These 3 Initiatives

Three fashion initiatives hope to revamp one of the most problematic American industries.

Beauty & Fashion

It's no secret that fashion is one of the most problematic industries in America. At the start of June, there was a wave of challenges issued to boardrooms across the world to diversify their companies from the ground up. After the incredible turnout for Blackout Tuesday, the momentum for black lives seemed to dwindle. Unfortunately, the accountability and ally-ship previously preached seems like a memory of years past.

Equality, at all levels and across all industries, is something that needs to be done more often. It's a dance we have to keep participating in and perfecting as we go. The momentum has been surrounded around black joy, not the loss of black lives. While the trends fade, the real work does not. Here are three initiatives that are determined to change the space of fashion for black people.

15% Pledge

Founded by Aurora James of Brother Vellies, this pledge was created to continue the conversation about the black community and the black dollar. Black people make up, roughly, 15% of the population; the pledge calls to replicate that on the shelves of major retailers.

There's a difference between a black business and a black-owned business. A black-owned business puts the profits directly back into the black family; a business geared towards black people, not so much. The profit of the black dollar has to stop without the participation of black people. The black community is constantly discarded, even though black culture stimulates the American economy. With the 15% pledge, this directly impacts the black families across the country at a substantial level.

So far, juggernaut companies like West Elm, Rent The Runway, and Sephora have committed to the pledge. There's still work to do, though, as a lot of retailers haven't accepted the challenge.

You can sign the pledge here and you can see what other retailers have taken the pledge.

The Kelly Initiative

It seems archaic but sometimes, it all starts with a letter. The Kelly Initiative started with a letter to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) from around 250 fashion professionals, accusing the organization of permitting "exploitative cultures of prejudice, tokenism, and employment discrimination to thrive." The letter belabors the point of inclusivity, how the black community will no longer be complacent, and a challenge to CDFA to transform their ways. It called for further action to help ensure industry transparency, accountability, and inclusivity at all levels. Signees include fashion historian Shelby Ivey Christie, celebrity stylists Ty Hunter and Jason Bolden, and Cosmopolitan editor Julee Wilson.

The Kelly Initiative is named in honor of Patrick Kelly, a Black designer and first American to be admitted into the Chamber Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter in 1988. The initiative will also curate an annual report, The Kelly List; a list of 50 Black professionals that epitomize "top-tier talent" in the industry. While the CFDA released its own statement regarding the lack of diversity within the organization and the industry as a whole, The Kelly Initiative called these steps "insufficient". The letter challenges the CFDA to do more and ended by saying:

"From tailoring bodices to merchandising e-boutiques, from convening brand-summits to boldly helming boardrooms, never again will it be questioned; WE MATTER. #BlackLivesMatter."

The Black in Fashion Council

Founded by Teen Vogue EIC Lindsay Peoples Wagner and public relations specialist Sandrine Charles, The Black Fashion Council's mission is the advancement of black people, specifically in the fashion and beauty spaces. With over 400 professionals across the different verticals of the industry, this initiative operates similarly to Pull Up or Shut Up. By partnering with the Human Rights Campaigns, the council will create an equality index score to benchmark and release an annual report card for corporations that have signed the three-year commitment pledge.

"The Human Rights Campaign already has a Corporate Equality Index for people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community that companies like Kering are already a part of," Peoples Wagner says. "This would be a way to continue to give companies a report card of accountability without them feeling like they're being shamed into it, and giving them the actual resources of what people are saying they want to see changed."

Companies can sign the pledge here.

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Featured image by Shutterstock

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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