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Nordstrom Signs Onto 15 Percent Pledge, Here’s What Sets it Apart

Nordstrom has become the latest fashion player to prioritize diversity and inclusion by joining the 15 Percent Pledge—and it’s the first retailer to sign onto a decade-long commitment.

On Thursday, the department store chain announced its partnership with the non-profit, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in late June. Founded by designer Aurora James, who helms Brooklyn-based footwear label Brother Vellies, the group challenges retailers to reserve 15 percent of their shelf and rack space for oft-underrepresented Black-owned brands.

Over the course of the past year, 30 retailers and businesses, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Hudson’s Bay, MatchesFashion, J.Crew, Madewell, Rent the Runway, Gap and Athleta have committed to taking the pledge.

Nordstrom’s inclusion signals increased interest from major retailers looking to created meaningful opportunities for Black businesses, founders and communities, the 15 Percent Pledge said in a statement.

In addition to signing onto the group’s mission, Nordstrom has taken its commitment a step further by announcing its intention to increase its total purchases from Black-owned or founded brands by 10x by the end of 2030.

The Seattle-based national store chain is working closely with the 15 Percent Pledge to create a strategy to execute on that goal, with the aim of creating more financial equity for Black business owners within its ecosystem. The company has established new benchmarks to address diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) across its operations, and has begun that work with new product launches and curations over the course of recent seasons.

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To celebrate Black History Month in February, the company launched a popup activation called Black Founders at its New York City flagship. The event highlighted apparel, footwear and accessories from eight American Black-owned brands within the store’s Center Stage space, which was designed for rotating collections and has the feel of a fashion archive. The exposition was designed to give the chosen brands and designers the “highest level of exposure by amplifying their voices,” Nordstrom’s vice president and manager for New York City stores, Chris Wanlass, said at the time.

Nordstrom's Black Founders activation in New York City.
Nordstrom’s Black Founders activation in New York City. Courtesy

The eight featured brands and founders include Sharon Chuter of UOMA Beauty, Miko Underwood of Oak & Acorn apparel, Erika Dalya Massaquoi of womenswear brand The OULA Company, Elann Zelie of dress and lounge brand Zelie for She, John Dean of Renowned clothing, Jessica Rich of her eponymous shoe brand, Corianna and Brianna Dotson of Coco and Breezy Eyewear, and Nancy Twine of Briogeo Hair Care. In addition to getting prime shelf space at the NYC flagship, the brands were available through March at select Nordstrom stores across the country and Nordstrom.com.

Oak & Acorn’s Underwood said that the opportunity catapulted the brand’s success, and it became the top-selling brand at Nordstrom’s Atlanta Phipps Plaza store with the help of committed sales associates and stylists, who championed the label. The effort “immediately translated into organic ambassadorship via store socials, strategic visual merchandising, styling boards and direct customer transactions,” she said.

Nordstrom also boasts a tab on its e-commerce site devoted to Black-owned and founded brands, including jewelry designer Bernard James, footwear designer Rebecca Allen and The House of LR&C, helmed by Russell Wilson and wife Ciara.

“When we first launched the Fifteen Percent Pledge, our focus was on encouraging retailers to commit to a minimum of 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses,” Aurora James, founder of Fifteen Percent Pledge, said this week. “While this is still our ultimate goal, we know that progress won’t be possible without growing the pipeline of Black-owned businesses. We applaud Nordstrom for the work they’re doing to create financial opportunities for the Black community.”