Feb 22, 2023
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Two programs launch during Black History Month in New York empowering BIPOC professionals

Feb 22, 2023

Black History Month may soon be giving way to Women's History Month, but two programs—RaiseFashion and Black in Corporate with Kering Americas—aimed at empowering BIPOC and Black professionals, are gearing up to launch fresh projects.

The Folklore event - Courtesy - Courtesy

The first is a Brand Fellowship Program from RaiseFashion, the non-profit volunteer advisory network of fashion industry leaders advancing the equity of BIPOC talent through mentorship, resources, and access.
Beginning March 27, the fellowship will offer advisory services through eight weeks of masterclasses helmed by experts from Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, TikTok, The VF Foundation, Shopbop, Saks Fifth Avenue, Farfetch, Michael Kors, Lululemon, Simkhai, Hand Baldachin Associates LLP, and Birimian Ventures, among others. The sessions will provide insight and strategies to build a successful brand with optimal growth potential. The session follow-ups will work on covering effective business practices with a vital mission, the founder's story, marketing and social media strategies, wholesale relationships, and revenue growth.
The application period opens February 23 through March 8 via the RaiseFashion website.
The inaugural cohort will award eight BIPOC-owned brands, each with
a $15,000 grant. As the program concludes, brands will participate in a pitch session, with two brands receiving an additional $15,000 each. All participants will continue to have resources at their disposal.

"We have a responsibility to equip BIPOC brands with the tools and industry expertise that will help them with their operational ecosystems to help them grow their business. We are all incredibly proud of the diverse network of experts we have assembled for this one-of-a-kind Fellowship Program," said Felita Harris, founding member, and executive director of RaiseFashion, noting that many companies participating already have similar initiatives.

The fellowship program follows another BIPOC business empowerment initiative realized as a wholesale showroom partnership between RAISEfashion and The Folklore Connect during NYFW.  The non-provides a wealth of pro-bono services and expertise such as e-commerce, finance, merchandising, operations and logistics, production, sales, business development, branding, marketing, public relations, influencer outreach, and creative content strategies, supporting over 250 emerging brands and designers in developing networks.  

Kering Americas is putting its efforts where its values are. The luxury company's U.S.-based operations announced the second installment with Black in Corporate (BIC), a tool to help champion Black professionals navigating corporate America, founded by social media consultant, Candace Marie Stewart.
Kering's program begins its application process on February 21 through March 9. Those selected will start their mentorship on April 7. Building on the success of the inaugural program in 2021, a one-month-long virtual mentorship, the sophomore effort will be a three-month-long program.
Stewart's resume includes media and retail powerhouse companies such as Prada, Vogue, Barneys New York, and Essence, as well as JP Morgan Chase, where she served as a due diligence manager, and Parsons, where she lectures. Having navigated those corporate ladders and knowing corporate culture was not a system built or designed considering Black individuals, Stewart saw the need for a resource to support their career journeys.
The program addresses issues such as pay equity, mental and physical health, business mentorship, and community building in an effort for black employees to thrive in the workplace. Mentors offer resources, opportunities, and collaboration during crucial growth-focused steps of the participants' careers.
Born during the social reckoning of the summer of 2020, BIC did its first corporate partnership with Kering Americas in the summer of 2021, where mentees and mentors met virtually during the month-long program. The second installment will pair mentees across Kering's Houses offices in the U.S. from marketing /advertising, project management/operations, human resources, financial services, legal, media/communications, and technology.
"With the extended program time, my hope is that this will allow the mentees to establish and develop deeper relationships coupled with a stronger understanding of the organization's inner workings to create and foster more opportunities for Black talent," said Stewart.
"At Kering, we prioritize learning and development at all stages of one's career and understand mentorships' critical role in navigating our industry, especially for BIPOC talent whose experiences can include systemic obstacles and racial biases," said Laurent Claquin, president of Kering Americas.

Kering has been committed to giving opportunities to talent, stressing pillars of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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