NEW YORK, United States — In his nearly two decades in fashion, Victor Glemaud has never felt alone — a feat that he largely attributes to his mentor, best friend and former boss, Patrick Robinson.
But the New York City-based designer knows that he’s the exception. Through conversations with industry peers during the pandemic as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, Glemaud said it became clear to him that the fashion industry lacked a real support system for Black creatives — especially considering the widespread racism that afflicts them.
So, in June, Glemaud founded In the Blk, a professional network dedicated to helping Black designers and other creatives in the fashion industry all over the world to achieve economic independence. The organisation, whose members so far include Virgil Abloh, Jason Rembert, Fe Noel, Omoyemi Akerele and Stella Jean, aims to pool resources — such as tools for legal assistance and logistics support — for fashion companies of any size.
“A lot of Black-owned brands are self-funded,” said Glemaud, and this means they might not have access to lessons in wholesale or running a direct-to-consumer business. “So what I realised was that this business services aspect is something that [In the Blk] can provide.”
While trade organisations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America or the Fédération de la haute couture et de la Mode exist to support independent designers, they’ve yet to truly listen and acknowledge the Black experience in the industry, Glemaud said. “The difference is now we designers are no longer waiting for [them] to acknowledge us," he said. "We are moving forward collectively together [with In the Blk].”
Glemaud plans to officially launch the organisation as part of Paris Fashion Week this month, in partnership with the Fédération as well as Instagram.
So far, joining the organisation is an informal process, typically through word-of-mouth or direct messages to Glemaud or other members. “We’re bringing people on board with shared experiences … And everyone is welcome,” he said.
In addition to business-building resources, In the Blk will provide mentorship opportunities and networking events. It’s currently in conversation with two outside organisations for funding, Glemaud said. The group's members congregate via phone call every Friday (not too late for Europe nor too early for Los Angeles, Glemaud said) to discuss organisation objectives as well as personal projects. Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of label Studio One Eighty Nine and an early member of In the Blk, said she was able to solicit help from the group for her voting initiative, Fashion Our Future 2020, on one of these calls.
"It's so encouraging — people just offered to support," Erwiah told BoF. "Virgil [Abloh] offered to design the logo and assets, and Victor was supportive and connected me to other brands ... This is a distinctive community that's needed."
The idea behind In the Blk came out of Rewiring Fashion, a collective of fashion designers and buyers who created a set of new principles for guiding the industry in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, including a consolidated fashion calendar. The Rewiring Fashion collective began with conversations facilitated by BoF.
“Our first scheduled [Rewiring Fashion] subgroup was the first Monday in June and of course, all of our previous agenda was erased by the killing of George Floyd,” Glemaud said. That was the original iteration of the group.
Last month, another group of fashion executives launched an advisory organisation called RaiseFashion, a nonprofit entity that will provide free business consulting for Black industry professionals. Its board members include designer Carly Cushnie and Net-a-Porter’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz.