Fashion Week ended some time ago, but Intuit MailChimp and Black in Fashion Council’s (BFIC) commitment to creating access to digital tools, mentorship, and capital is ongoing. Black designers and fashion entrepreneurs have made immeasurable contributions to the fashion industry for decades. And arguably have been under-resourced. For those reasons, MailChimp and BCIF have partnered.
MailChimp empowers customers to start and grow their businesses with world-class marketing technology, award-winning customer support, and content as an email marketing and automation company. They also invest in entrepreneurs through programs and accelerators like Bloom Season. Under the tutelage of media executive Lindsay Peoples Wagner and public relations specialist Sandrine Charles, Black In Fashion Council is a collective of editors, models, stylists, freelance creatives, and industry stakeholders created to build a new foundation for inclusivity within the fashion industry.
In September, MailChimp sponsored the first-ever “BIFC Discovery Showrooms,” designed and produced by Wink, Mailchimp’s in-house creative agency, in partnership with IMG at Spring Studios. Designs from Izayla, Ndigo Studio, Kwame Adusei, Sammy B, and Muehleder were showcased as part of their inaugural capsule collection.
As the Senior Director of Brand and Content Marketing at MailChimp, Michael Mitchell, is passionate about helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
MailChimp’s audience is small businesses and entrepreneurs. Designers fall into that category. They may not immediately come to mind, but they are small businesses. They are entrepreneurs. They are people who want to get their ideas out there into the world. This opportunity was created to highlight those who don’t normally get the highlight and don’t get the shine,” said Mitchell. “If we can provide a platform and access for historically excluded groups. Why not? I think we’ve done a lot of work for Brown and Black entrepreneurs and want to begin to extend that platform to female entrepreneurs and LGBTQIA entrepreneurs. We want to create as inclusive of a platform as possible and provide as much representation as possible.”
And ultimately, Mitchell shared that MailChimp wants to get as many designers in front of people and in the closets of as many people as possible as they grow their business.
In a statement released by MailChimp, Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Sandrine Charles, Co-Founders of Black in Fashion, said, “The Black in Fashion Council is excited to continue to help elevate emerging designers to get the visibility and access that they need and deserve, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to further their excellence. Making the fashion industry more inclusive is an all-hands-on-deck undertaking and partnering with brands like Mailchimp to continue to amplify inclusivity efforts is just one step closer to a more equitable environment for all.”
When asked what it felt like to have the support of BIFC and MailChimp behind her, Samantha Black, founder Sammy B, said, “This time around feels more special, mainly because I’m like Launching Samantha Black in collaboration with MailChimp. A lot is happening at the same time. But it’s all at the right time. So, I’m excited about everything to come. As part of the collaborations, we are receiving mentoring. My brand is self-funded. And as a small business owner who has to do everything, having the help of a big machine behind me will make so much of a difference.”
Last season, Black brought fellow designer Larissa Muehleder with her to Fashion Week. Now both of them are part of the BIFC and MailChimp program and capsule collection. When she started her Muehleder in 2014, she said that she didn’t realize the number of barriers that she was up against as a Black woman designer and entrepreneur. She believes that building relationships and being persistent create priceless opportunities like this.
“This program is so important because it holds us up and says, ‘Hey, pay attention to these designers. And you should pay attention and be aware of nepotism and the lack of inclusiveness.’ It’s an honor for MailChimp to have that broader lens as they partner with Black In Fashion Council,” said Muehleder.
For designer I’sha Dunston, creator of Izayla, having MailChimp and Black In Fashion Council’s help accelerate her business is right on target. Over the years, Dunston has made business deals with Saks Fifth Avenue and Elyse walker to have Izayla on the racks and online. Nevertheless, she is always grateful for additional support through mentorship, email marketing, and audience engagement on social media.
In what some may consider a short amount of time since launching her business in 2017, Dunston has become a part of the small percentage of Black designers in high-end retail stores through a handshake.
“I don’t want to say it was luck—definitely talent and resources. I got into Saks through an introduction. That’s how it is. It’s only about two percent of us. It should be more of us. Not just me. We have a lot of talent for one or two percent of us to get an opportunity. I’m blessed and grateful to be in that position,” said Dunston. And she wants to put others in a similar position. “That’s partly why I created Izayla. It’s about women’s empowerment, integrity, and representation. If I’m in the door, I’ll leave it open. I’m going to give you the introductions. I’m going to help you with whatever you need.”
To others looking to get started on their journey, Dunston shared this advice. “Stay consistent, be ambitious, and be creative. That’s what it is really about. And there is no wrong way to start. I always believe it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
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