Quite often as an audience, it is very easy to get caught up on the surface in the world of fashion. Meanwhile, there is a whole other side of the industry, beyond modeling, styling, and designing, that goes unnoticed. Over the weekend Essence Magazine called attention to five very important black women in the game of fashion.
Umindi Francis is the CEO & Founder of Umindi Francis Consulting Group which is a strategic brand consulting firm based in New York City with clients spanning five continents. Their expertise is in brand development and strategic communications for fashion, beauty, luxury, technology, entertainment, art & design and lifestyle brands. Francis has over 15 years of experience in strategic marketing and communications and has held positions at Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta covering corporate communications and events. Her words of advice to Black women in business and fashion:
Go for it! First figure out what area of the industry may be right for you. There are lots of jobs that many people don’t know about. Social media has created new opportunities as well. Try to find someone who can tell you a bit more about the positions that interest you. Informational interviews are great and can also lead to mentorship opportunities. Above all, build a network. The relationships you develop, even if you are an intern, are valuable and can last your entire career.
Vanessa Kingori is currently the Publishing Director of British Vogue. She is in control of all the financial aspects of running the brand. Often times her business and creativity are forced to overlap in the sense that Vogue covers affect sales and attract advertising, so it’s an area that she has to discuss in detail with the team. In 2018 she became the first woman ever to run the British Vogue business as well as the first person of color to become publishing director across all Conde Nast brands. Her advice to Black women who want to work in fashion:
My advice for Black women or any women of difference working in the fashion business is to always bring your authentic self even when it makes you or others uncomfortable. Often, people feel that they need to conform in order to make it. I’ve seen so many instances of imposter syndrome. It’s important to remember that you can never be a better version of somebody else, and no one can be a better version of you.
Ezinne Kwubiri is the Head of Diversity & Inclusion for H&M, she collaborates with various departments at H&M (locally and globally), and gets to meet new people all over the world. Her position allows her to learn from others, provide a different perspective, hear their stories and celebrate when they see their hard work come to life. Her words of wisdom for Black women wanting to work in the fashion business:
Do your research and respect the process—that’s true for any business you’re looking to go into. The dream job isn’t going to be the first opportunity. You have to be knowledgeable, competitive and prepared to showcase your craft. This means building your portfolio and résumé through internships, continuing education, conferences and books.
Nicole Cokley-Dunlap was appointed to VP of Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at Macy’s Inc., in June. She is also the Co-President of BRAG (Black Retail Action Group). Her Role is to focus on the diversity and inclusion strategy for Macy’s Inc., which includes Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s Backstage, STORY and Blue Mercury. Her advice to Black women entering the fashion business:
The industry needs you and will greatly benefit from your background. Be assured that your uniqueness can bring opportunity and innovation to so many aspects of the industry.
Candace Marie works as a Social Media Strategist at Prada. She is the first in this job capacity in the U.S. Her role is to create and implement social media strategies in line with business needs, monitoring the success of social media initiatives, giving feedback on activations and aligning influencer strategies with overall company objectives. Her advice to Black women wanting to enter the field is:
Work persistently hard toward that one yes and surround yourself with friends and mentors who are hard workers as well. Throughout my career I’ve heard the word no so many times, and, to be honest, it can be very discouraging, especially when you have the qualifications and you find out you were overlooked or passed over for someone who brought less to the table.