Do you remember the zoot suit? How about Hammer pants? Or (my favorite mention) Diana Ross slinking across the screen in her glitter and bouffant? Each of these 20th century fashion moments were brought up in this week’s panel discussion at our company.
Specifically, we called it “Fashion’s March Forward: The African American Influence on Fashion.”
That’s a formal way to honor Black History Month. The panel, led by one of our lead merchants at Old Navy, featured four fashion headliners. They included:
- Maya Lake, up-and-coming designer recently featured in “Essence”
- Sherri McMullen, Oakland-based boutique entrepreneur
- Elizabeth Wellington, “Philadelphia Inquirer” fashion columnist
- Wallace Hollimon, Director of Men’s Design, Old Navy
Elizabeth told us that black people have always been involved in fashion in America - whether physically making the clothes or influencing the industry through the hip-hop movement. The discussion then went on to touch upon a number of points: the influence and history of African prints that Maya uses in her designs; the challenges of buying products for a diverse clientele at shops like Sherri’s; and Wallace’s point on how African-American men have influenced the fashion industry throughout the years.
One of the most powerful points came toward the end of the chat, when Wallace talked about this year being the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington. He said that we must continue marching forward and be tenacious in striving to make the world better.
I was inspired by how our visitors offered career advice, encouraging us to talk about our work, because so many people don’t know about the many options behind fashion careers that companies like ours provide.
Diversity is an important aspect of our business. Share your achievements, tell your story to as many people as you can, the panelists told us, and continue to celebrate your heritage through your work – it was just another example of how we pay tribute to our people and our industry and one of the reasons that drew me to this company a year ago.