Event producers Brittany Hicks, Jessica Couch, and Ellie Zambrano welcomed a packed house at Fig & Olive in New York for the semi-annual Women of Color FashTech Brunch on Saturday, February 9, 2019. The event was both inspiring and empowering, providing a welcome platform for women working in fashion, tech, and media to discuss a wide range of topics including diversity, inclusion, and the need to create pathways for professional fulfillment and advancement.
Panelists included Uzunma Udeh, Sr. Finance Analyst of Global Markets at ASOS, Kelly Stickel of the retail consultancy firm Remodista, C-Suite Coach Founder Angelina Darrisaw-Cheeks, and Jessica Couch of Luxor and Finch, who also co-produced the event.
The discussion, moderated by Brittany Hicks of Amazon Fashion, covered a variety of topics including the spending power of women of color, the importance of showing up authentically in a corporate office environment, the lack of resources available for women of color to pursue professional development, how industry stakeholders can support inclusion and diversity within their organizations, and how success can be measured in the form of meaningful results.
Jessica Couch of Luxor and Finch (pictured above, left) spoke about the need for brands to be more inclusive when it comes to sizing, stating that the non-standard sizing market is a $22 billion dollar industry, leaving a large portion of the business on the table for brands who extend their size ranges and include women of all body shapes in their marketing and advertising campaigns. A focus on inclusive sizing would also reduce e-commerce returns due to fit issues and ultimately help brands make better strides toward sustainability.
Kelly Stickel of Remodista discussed the need for companies to embrace diversity and inclusion as more than just buzzwords, truly making an effort to to hire and retain diverse talent. It’s also critical that brands give women access to resources that can help them be successful throughout their careers.
Uzunma Udeh of ASOS, (pictured above, left) spoke openly and honestly about the challenges women of color face when they are the minority within their organization. In addition to lacking strong support networks, there’s also the reality that professional mentors are hard to find, and that opportunities for advancement are not equally distributed. “It’s hard to be yourself when you feel like you have so much to prove,” adds Udeh, “It’s important for people who have access to change to be a resource and a voice for those that may not have one.”
Angelina Darrisaw-Cheeks of C-Suite Coach (pictured above, right) spoke about the need for companies to make meaningful investments in communities of color. She called for greater transparency, urging women to share the stories of how resources made a difference in their lives so that companies can better understand the need for allocation. She also spoke about the dangers of conformity. “Every time you change who you are to fit in to a room, you’re telling women who are following in your footsteps that they too have to change who they are. You are enough,” she added. Angelina also urged women to ask for the resources they needed for personal development including mentorship, career coaching, business courses, and action plans for career advancement. View Angelina’s Ted Talk on the subject here.
Guests of the event enjoyed a 3-course brunch, signature cocktails hosted by Hennessy, swag bags, and strategic networking opportunities before and after the brunch. Companies in attendance at the event included Linked In, Deloitte, Macy’s, Amazon, Harlem Candle Co., J.P. Morgan, Marchesa, and LVMH.
The Women of Color FashTech brunch was an informative and inspirational event, allowing a diverse group of women to come together during New York Fashion Week to connect, share ideas, and build a network of support. Event producers plan to bring this event to other cities this year including Austin, LA, Seattle, and Washington D.C. A waitlist has already started forming for the next brunch in New York which will take place in September during Fashion Week. In the meantime, check out the Women of FashTech in Austin at SXSW on March 11. More info can be found here.
Photo credit: Jajuan Burton