The height of the Black Lives Matter movement spurred fashion brands to take bigger action than ever before in terms of their diversity and inclusion efforts. Companies issued impactful statements, made sizable donations to policy reform organizations and looked internally for ways to make their workplaces more inclusive and accessible.
As part of Gap Inc.’s commitment to leveling the playing field in fashion, it launched an initiative last month in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), an organization dedicated to amplifying Black and Latino designers, and ICON360, an HFR nonprofit subsidiary launched in response to the pandemic, that aims to strengthen educational opportunities for the next generation of Black fashion leaders. Aptly named “Closing the Gap,” the awards program just announced the recipients of its sizable scholarships spread across 10 fashion departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Combined, the awards total $510,000, which the retailer noted is the largest donation to HBCUs fashion programs by a major retailer.
The review board was made up of representatives from Gap Inc, HFR and ICON 360, with two guest judges and HBCU alumni including Marielle Bobo, editor-in-chief of Ebony Magazine, and Ramona Dunlap, adjunct professor at FIT in New York and a consultant at Kirk Palmer Associates.
Scholarships are broken up into three different amounts: $100,000, awarded to North Carolina Central, located in Durham, N.C., and North Carolina A & T, located in Greensboro, N.C.; $50,000, awarded to Delaware State University in Dover, Del., Howard University in Washington, D.C., Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Md., and Tennessee State in Nashville, Tenn.; and $20,000, awarded to University of Arkansas Pine Bluff in Pine Bluff, Ark., Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga., and Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. Students enrolled in each of the winning HBCU programs will also receive mentorship and internship opportunities from Gap Inc. and ICON360.
“When reviewing all of our applicants and selecting the winners, we were impressed with the winners’ stories tied to the growth of their fashion department,” Keisha Golding, senior director of community belonging at Gap Inc., told Rivet. “Also, we felt they all had a strong mission and very clear objectives for the future of their schools, and each one of their classroom experiences and curriculums aligns with our scholarship goals. We look forward to beginning our relationship with these top HBCUs and supporting their success and growth in the fashion design and merchandising majors.”
According to the companies, this is the first of many awards programs to bolster Black creatives, as they intend to run this event annually.
“We are coming together as one to not only address pipeline issues of diversity and inclusion in the industry, but also to help give tools and guidance the next generation needs to take the fashion industry to new heights,” said Brandice Daniel, founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row. “When Harlem’s Fashion Row started [in 2007], we focused on the designers that were looking to present their collection to buyers and editors, and quickly realized that to make a difference, we must educate and mentor the new talent entering the field. We look forward to extending this initiative and opportunity by welcoming all incoming professionals.”
Separately, HFR launched its inaugural “Fashion Playbook,” an online video content library of insight from fashion industry professionals targeted at students in middle school, high school and college. Sponsored by Gap Inc., the library will contain 22 videos—eight of which feature Gap employees.