Some people see a need and talk about what needs to be done. Others see a need and do what needs to be done. That is the kind of person Brandice Daniel is. The founder of Harlem Fashion Row, an organization that helps to bring more visibility to multicultural designers, said she was led to her path by what she can only describe as a calling.
“It was an idea I believe that was given to me by God and I couldn’t let it go,” she says. “I was working a full-time job at the time and was going to school part-time. There was this idea to do a fashion show in Harlem that I couldn’t stop thinking about, dreaming about or talking about. So I started planning it.”
Daniel says that although a fashion show was her first idea, she quickly expanded on it, once again being led by spirit. It evolved into Harlem Fashion Row, now in its 11th year. Along the way, Daniel has provided exposure to more African-American and multicultural designers than any other entity.
HFR has now attracted the attention of elite sponsors including Nike, which this year sponsors their annual fashion show and awards dinner this Tuesday honoring design pioneers Dapper Dan and Bethann Hardison as well as stylist Jason Rembert (Zayn Malik, Usher, Wale, Kevin Love) and NBA superstar LeBron James.
The Memphis native was once a pre-med student who changed her major to fashion merchandising, ultimately working as a production manager for an intimate apparel brand. From there, Daniel hoped to work for a luxury brand or own a boutique. Instead, Daniel has become an ambassador for designers looking to build and audience.
When she first got the idea, Daniel researched and found that African-American and other fashion designers of color existed but weren’t getting the exposure of their less melanin heavy peers. In fact, she was hard-pressed to find any out of the thousands of designers whose clothes sold via department stores.
Social media and dogged research helped Daniels find more and now she has a list of almost 300 African-American and multicultural designers. But a calling that turned into a passion has led to a host of options for multicultural designers to showcase their wares – from pop-up stores to major fashion events.
There is also an e-book, available via download that showcases the history of Black fashion designers, a podcast and a blog. This year, Harlem Fashion Row is partnering with Cabana Trade Show, a swimwear and resort wear show, which will allow designers to get their clothing in front of potentially thousands of buyers.
As inspiring as she’s been to those in the fashion world who want to see more diversity, her personal story is just as compelling. Once Daniel decided to focus on Harlem Fashion Row, she says support for her endeavor came from places she would never have anticipated.
“Consistency wins the race,” Daniel says. “The more you have one message and keep putting that message out over and over, without taking things personal, so many amazing things can happen. People told me back in 2007 that I was crazy that it had been tried before and didn’t work – other people said they didn’t even want to talk about race and now those same people are some of my biggest supporters. It’s interesting to see what happens when you keep knocking at the door.”
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