As protests against police brutality have swept the country in recent weeks and major retailers job messages of solidarity with black Americans on social media, Aurora James, creative director in Brooklyn, wondered if she really felt these brands supported her as a black woman and business owner.
“The answer was no,” Ms. James, 35, said in an interview. “I started to think – black people don’t feel supported. I don’t feel supported.
On May 29, she wrote down an idea of what might change that and posted it on InstagramQ .: What if big retailers like Walmart, Sephora, Target, and Whole Foods started dedicating 15% of their storage space to products from black-owned businesses to align with the African American population in the United States? This would fuel the growth of brands and attract new investment that would eventually extend to black communities, she wrote.
His proposal, which quickly made the rounds on social media, is now known as 15% commitment and caught the attention of its target audience. On Wednesday, Sephora’s U.S.-based company said it would engage and create an advisory group that would include Ms James and executives from brands owned by people of color to help her make change.
“At the end of the day, this commitment is not limited to the premium products on our shelves,” said Artemis Patrick, Director of Merchandising at Sephora. “It starts with a long-term plan to diversify our supply chain and create a system that creates a better platform for the growth of black-owned brands, while ensuring that black voices help shape our industry. We recognize that we can do better.
Sephora works with approximately 290 brands in the United States, where it has more than 400 stores and locations at JC Penney. The company said it has sold nine black-owned brands, including Fenty Beauty and Pat McGrath Labs.
Sephora, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said it is committed to the three stages of the commitment that Ms James described: determining the current percentage of storage space and contracts dedicated to businesses owned by black people, identify concrete next steps to increase that number and take action by issuing and executing a plan “to increase the share of black businesses, Sephora is helping to empower at least 15 percent.”
Rent the Runway also said on Wednesday it is committed to that pledge. “We collectively rely on the fact that for too long fashion has co-opted the style, inspiration and ideas of black culture without ensuring that the people behind the work are paid properly,” Jennifer Hyman, Managing Director of the company and co-founder, said in a statement.
The company said it will also dedicate $ 1 million to support black designers through other initiatives.
Ms James urged Target to sign up via Instagram posts. Target did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The data exists that these black companies exist and they are wonderful – I often buy black products, and as a person in the fashion industry, some of my favorite designers are black,” said Ms. James, the Founder of Brother Vellies, a luxury accessories brand in New York City that works with artisans around the world.
“It’s not that there is a lack of products available,” she added. “It’s just that people are not supporting him in the right way. They don’t have the means to develop and grow their brands in the same way.
Commitment is a “noble goal”, but it is achievable, she said.
Mrs. James’ effort comes as big companies are fighting with their own roles in contributing to systemic inequality in the United States and their often poor track record of hiring, promoting, and compensating black men and women fairly. Some have also come under heavy criticism for recent messages of support that have been vague or even hypocritical, and failed to include concrete action on how companies plan to support black communities.
The idea behind the 15 percent pledge is to move beyond one-time donations and create more lasting change at retailers, Ms. James said. This would then have a longer term impact on black-owned businesses.
For example, Sephora said it would provide connections and support to black-owned businesses with donors and venture capitalists and scale its existing incubation programs to “focus on women of color.” .
“It’s not just about writing a purchase order for black-owned businesses and putting them online hoping they are successful,” Ms. James said. “I want them to take their time and strategize – what that integration looks like, how to support them with marketing, how to make sure they’re connected to the right people.”