ALL ABOUT NEW YORK: In what appears to be a serious corporate home court advantage, Harlem’s Fashion Row will host its fourth annual designer retreat at Nike’s headquarters in New York City.
The athletic giant is the title sponsor for the three-day event that will provide networking and learning opportunities for 75 BIPOC designers. Like Harlem’s Fashion Row, which is committed to continuing to support underrepresented designers and emerging talent, Nike has also made diversity a priority in the corporation. There are a number of other inclusion-focused companies that will also be welcoming participants to their New York outposts.
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The retreat gets underway today and will run through Friday. Nike did not contribute to any of the attendees’ airfare or accommodations, according to a spokeswoman for Harlem’s Fashion Row. The aim is to give designers of color access to individuals who can help shape their futures in the industry. Attendees will get to meet and greet key industry executives and creatives, and gain insights about the sector from leading luxury retailers, designers and other forces in the fashion industry.
The retreat will also include stops at other fashion powerhouses beyond Nike. Participants will also get a closer look at Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tory Burch and Bergdorf Goodman. The brigade of young talent will have the chance to speak with design team members and top-notch executives. Jarvis Sam, Nike’s vice president of global diversity and inclusion; Louis Vuitton Americas’ president and zone chief executive officer Lanessa Elrod and chief senior vice president of U.S. retail Thomas Haupt, and Kith chief impact officer and Liberty Fairs’ co-owner Sharifa Murdock will share their knowledge with the up-and-comers.
Brandice Daniel, CEO and founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row and Icon 360, said Nike believed in HFR when she had the idea for the first retreat. “There was no proof that it would work, but they opened their doors and rolled out the red carpet for designers of color,” she said, adding that in the middle of the pandemic Nike “made the pivot with us to virtual.”
The brand has a lot of bandwidth. On average, analysts forecast that Nike will report full-year sales of $46.88 billion for the current financial year.
Just as participants will get an inside view of Nike, the mega-billion-dollar brand will check out their designs.
“We have a multiyear agreement for the Designer Retreat. This year, we are hosting a design combine to allow Nike to see the talent that exists within the community,” Daniel said, the competition is an apparent riff on the National Basketball Association Draft Combine, where college players show off their skills for NBA coaches, general managers and scouts in advance of the draft.
Daniel also said, “This retreat is a launching pad for the discoverable to be found, redirecting the trajectory of what the industry will look like in the near future.”
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