Harlem's Fashion Row Founder Brandice Daniel On the Importance of Knowing Your Why
Brandice Daniel has long been an advocate for Black and brown fashion designers. As the founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), Daniel does more than vocally express the need for diversity in the fashion industry, but most importantly, she lives (and wears) her mission. For our interview, Daniel dons a beautiful, fiery red top by stylist and designer Zerina Akers for Bar III, a collaboration with Macy’s Icons of Style. Along with Akers, there are four other Black designers featured in the partnership.
HFR has consistently supported designers of color since its start nearly 15 years ago. “I feel like the mission hasn't changed, but the reception to the mission has definitely changed. I see this industry really evolving,” Daniel says. “I now see more space for collaboration, even between the luxury retailers and designers of color as well. I'm seeing changes right now that I really feel like if we can sustain the spirit that we're in right now as an industry, I think you can change the industry long term for Black and brown designers.”
Everyone can play a role in shifting the fashion world by purchasing from designers of color, mainly when collaborations or new brands are carried in retailers. Daniel adds, “It’s really important that we go to those retailers and shop these designers. It’s important because then it shows a demand; it opens the door for even more designers of color. It will allow or encourage retailers to put more marketing dollars behind these brands as well.”
Daniel was always aware of her purpose of driving change in the fashion industry. She says, “Understanding your why has to be at your core because that is the thing that will keep you going when times get rough. It’s going to be the thing that keeps you from getting distracted. It’s going to be the thing that will allow you to take risks.” Speaking from experience, Daniel has always taken calculated risks. She secured the date and location for the first HFR show in August 2007 despite being without a team, makeup artists, models, or even designers. With ambition and faith on her side, she took what she calls a “cliff jump.” Daniel adds, “So often people start things because they think they should do it, but they don't really have a strong enough why to sustain that idea. So, when you have a why it becomes your anchor. Then, once you have your anchor, you have to be willing to take cliff jumps in order to push that forward.” So, she approached local Harlem boutiques and began securing designers for the show. “That means they had to say yes to being a part of something new. Even to this day, Harlem is a community where I think it's such a great incubator for new ideas because the community will always be behind you,” Daniel states.
Still holding strong to the core values set over a decade ago, HFR continues to support designers of color in various ways, particularly financially. In May 2020, Daniel started the nonprofit ICON360 to provide financial assistance to designers in response to the pandemic. It’s a nonprofit that Daniel hopes will outlive her. Additionally, ICON360 has pledged to give away half a million dollars every year to HBCU fashion departments. Daniel mentions it’s vital that the organization pour into those departments and give them the resources they need to compete globally. Daniel will announce a new initiative with ICON360 in February 2022.
Reflecting on the future, Daniel thinks of her five-year-old daughter and the opportunities young ones will have because of HFR. “We get an opportunity sometimes to do things that impact the next generation. For me, that’s the best because I used to always say things like, ‘HFR is about the eight-year-old that's coming up.’ Now we get to actually impact that eight-year-old now,” Daniel says. HFR has a forthcoming collaboration with children’s clothing company Janie and Jack. It's a tween collection with designers Rich Fresh and Kimberly Goldson, plus the Janie and Jack team. “This now gives kids the opportunity to see themselves in ways that they've never been able to see themselves before…then they can see, ‘Okay, there's a possibility for me.’”