Where did all of the people of color go in the fashion world? That is the question that, Brandice Henderson asked herself one day, which led to the creation of Harlem’s Fashion Row in 2007. Through workshops, networking events, mentoring and a competition that sends one fortunate designer to the prestigious New York Fashion Week, Henderson is establishing a platform for minorities to gain financial and commercial success in the competitive fashion industry.
Rolling out hit the runway to find out why she funds the company primarily out-of-pocket, how the legacy of oppression has hindered African American designers and why virtually every designer needs an education.
You’ve held many diverse positions in fashion. How have those experiences informed the work you do now?
It’s so interesting how everything in your life starts to make sense. I can remember selling insurance fresh out of college. I truly despised that job, but it was the best job for me as it removed the fear of speaking to people I don’t know. That is what helped me to approach designers the first year of Harlem’s Fashion Row.
I read that most of the company is still funded by you and angel investors. Why did you choose this funding method?
I’ve always felt that if I don’t invest in the vision, then why should you. My goal is to definitely have corporate support of Harlem’s Fashion Row and I’m excited that this year we have several corporate sponsors.
Do you think that it is race, economics, resources, or some other issue preventing people of color from mainstream success in fashion?
Right now, I would say all of the above. Because of our history as African Americans, many of us are three or four generations out of serious oppression. This, of course, plays a part in the amount of funding and resources that are available to us. In order to attend the right fashion schools, make great connections, be carried in the right showrooms and secure production, a designer must have resources and funding.
What is your fashion industry pet peeve?
My fashion industry pet peeve is meeting designers that brag about not going to school. There are definitely exceptions to the rule, but in most cases you need the technical training to be able to compete in this industry.