Brandice Daniel was attending a fashion show in Brooklyn in the mid-aughts when she envisioned the concept of Harlem's Fashion Row. She believed that Harlem, the neighborhood she calls home, deserved a fashion exhibit dedicated to emerging designers of color. In 2007, Daniel channeled her business acumen into the launch of her own company tasked with championing multi-cultural designers who were not afforded the favorable circumstances that often manifest into established success.
During a recent Harlem's Fashion Row summit in partnership with Google, Daniel took the stage to share a dismal reality: Less than 1% of designers sold in major department stores are people of color. By providing Black artists with a creative platform to present their work to prominent fashion leaders, Harlem's Fashion Row is ensuring that designers of color are changing the fashion establishment.
This March, Harlem's Fashion Council partnered with the CFDA to showcase three emerging designers, all of whom embody the diversity and multi-cultural perspective that needs to be at the forefront of contemporary fashion.
Brooklyn-native Felisha "Fe" Noel opened up her first boutique at just 19 years old. As a vintage lover with an affinity for bright colors and bold prints, Noel integrated her passion for travel and feminine expression into the eponymous brand she now operates. The designer is heavily influenced by her Grenadian heritage, and particularly attributes her drive, determination, and humble heart to her mother and grand-mother.
Noel also celebrates female entrepreneurs through the Fe Noel Foundation, dedicated to providing underserved young women with mentorship opportunities and tools to jumpstart their own creative careers. "I've taken every opportunity that I could to visit local high schools and speak to young people who may experience the same trepidation I had before entering this industry," the foundation's founder writes. "My biggest message to them has always been that they can be successful in anything that they decide to do as long as they work hard and commit to their craft."
Undra Celeste is a fellow Brooklyn-native with more than a decade of fashion industry experience. Founder of the eponymous line Undra Celeste New York, a contemporary womenswear company, Celeste's relationship with fashion began when she was only 10 years old. Her affinity for design quickly manifested into a career when she began working with renowned designers like Calvin Klein, Mark Ecko and Tory Burch. She dedicates the fabric of her brand to six defining principles: Fashion, dance, persistence, friendship, timelessness and love.
"You see success only when you give everything," Celeste said on the Oprah Winfrey Network. "People can be very nasty and critical, but that shouldn't stop you from offering whatever it is that God has put in your heart to offer to the world."
Kimberly Goldson attended the Fashion Institute of Technology after growing up in Brooklyn, the neighborhood that continues to inspire her designs. Alongside her sister Shelly Powell, Goldson launched her eponymous lifestyle brand in 2011, inspired by the many cultures both women experienced through their international travels. As a finalist on season nine of Project Runway, Goldson was celebrated for her ability to construct tailored pants, which likely provided the impetus for her brand's signature suiting. Kimberly Goldson says she targets women "who love luxury and dare to be bold and vivacious, fearless and distinctive."
Ahead of HFR's Style Awards and Fashion Show in September, NBA superstar LeBron James co-designed his women's basketball shoe for Nike with Noel, Celeste, and Goldson. In a post-game interview, James said that Black women continue to prove that they're the "strongest people on earth," which acted as somewhat of a catalyst for his partnership with the three designers. "He just said it. He didn't know how far that would travel," Goldson told the press at Nike's Manhattan headquarters alongside her co-designers. "The great minds at Nike saw that was something the world needed to hear on a bigger platform."
Photo courtesy of Fe Noel