Founder/ CEO Brandice Daniel
Harlem’s Fashion Row is a social company that provides a voice for multicultural designers; through a creative platform that enables these designers to sell and present their collections to key leaders within the fashion industry. HFR is committed to creating high-quality experiences, through unique, innovative, and inspiring displays of fashion. It is a celebration of the fashion community that reflects the culture and personal experience of multicultural designers. It takes a village to raise an artist and HFR is that Village.
"Sometimes you find your purpose and other times your purpose finds you. "
In 2005, I moved to Harlem from Memphis with 2 suitcases, a duffle bag, and a place to stay for 2 weeks in search of my purpose in fashion. I had made my way to New York City! Now, all I had to do was figure out what was calling me here.
My job was good. I enjoyed working in production with intimate apparel, but it wasn't my passion. I knew there was more, but where the heck was it! Little did I know that a fashion show in a small restaurant in Brooklyn would put me dead smack in the face of my purpose.
A fashion show in Harlem. That's it. That thought took me from my good spot watching models strut down the runway to a chair in the corner transported to the fashion show I would produce in Harlem.
Now, who in the world would be in this fashion show! Yes, B. Oyama! I had been working at his boutique for free to get experience on the weekend. I quickly figured out I didn't want to own a boutique, but I had built a great relationship and he knew me. He was the one person that could vouch for me.
I had one designer down. Only 4 more to go. Well, that was the tough part. They didn't know me and in New York City people needed to know you or have someone vouch for you before they trusted you with their brand. The brands they spent years building.
After being relentless and going back to the boutique owners over and over, 3 out of the remaining 4 said yes. The first show took place on August 17, 2007, at the River Room in Riverbank Park.
It was perfect! Well, it was except for the wet runway, the electricity that went out, and the epic meltdown I had right before the show. Yes, it was perfect because I had taken the cliff jump and started something from an idea.
The next year I started planning and specifically looked for African American designers and I had a huge problem! I could only find 5 or 6. This had to be a mistake. Where were the designers?
I soon learned that it wasn't a mistake. African American designers were grossly underrepresented in fashion. It was sad. It was infuriated. I couldn't sleep at night. I bought books upon books to help me understand. One of the books I bought was Blacks in the History of Fashion by Lois Alexander Lane. It all clicked. Lois Alexander Lane passed away the year I started HFR. Her goal was to preserve the African American legacy in fashion design.
Because of her, the Smithsonian now has a full collection of designs by African Americans.
I had found my purpose. I had found my reason for moving to New York. Now I had to figure out how to push this forward.
My first order of business was to connect with people who knew something about the fashion industry, so I asked Audrey Smaltz to be the first member of my advisory board. A miracle happened. She agreed. Each year, I found more designers of color, convinced more influencers to join our advisory board, and started to feel like I was actually making a difference.
In addition to a fashion show, we launched a pop-up shop, blogger, and editor events that allowed designers to connect with that audience, and we even started to get brands to sponsor our events. Thank God, because I had spent every penny of my savings pursuing this passion that I hoped would make a difference for designers of color.
My desire is the same. I want designers of color to have the same impact, opportunities, and connections as every other designer. Each year, I'm thinking of new ways to make this happen.
Every day, I'm speaking to designers and listening to what they need. HFR is a work in progress. We don't have all of the answers, but we are constantly in search of solutions. We will be satisfied, when designers of color can create profitable businesses from doing what they love when we've convinced you to shop from these designers, and we've created a system that allows access to any talented desigenr of color to thrive despite their socioeconomic status.
We're a work in progress. You're welcome to come along for this incredible ride!
More From The Founder | www.BrandiceDaniel.com