Macy’s plans to showcase more Black fashion designers and will launch five exclusive collections in the spring.
The limited-edition collaborations will be released starting in March and throughout 2021 at stores nationwide and on Macy’s website, officials shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
“We are committed to bringing more diverse-owned brands and design talent into our assortment,” said Durand Guion, vice president, Macy’s fashion office. “We know having a supplier base that reflects our diverse customers offers shoppers a more robust experience, allowing us to expand the breadth and uniqueness of our merchandise, while nurturing diverse talent in our industry.”
The designers are Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia and Ouigi Theodore.
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Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told USA TODAY that the retailer has been working to increase diversity for years and several factors led to the upcoming collections, including the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Black-owned businesses and brands have seen more support in a push for social and economic justice in the wake of protests against police brutality and renewed attention to the nation’s decades-long racial wealth gap.
“At Macy’s, like many of these other brands, we reexamined our business and programs for our opportunity to improve Black representation,” Gennette said, noting there has been a dialogue in the retail industry about not doing enough for designers of color.
In a presentation to investors earlier in the month, Macy’s hinted about the upcoming collaborations with Black designers within its private brands and said the company would take the 15 Percent Pledge “to increase the diverse vendor pipeline and amplify The Workshop.”
The 15 Percent Pledge is a grassroots group that started after Floyd’s death and is calling on major retailers to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Sephora, West Elm and Yelp are among the businesses that have taken the pledge.
“There’s certainly no question that the events of the last seven months have made us want to amplify and be more robust about the work we’ve been doing,” Guion said about growing diverse talent and partnering with more diverse brands.
Gennette, who also is Macy’s chairman, said the company is also seeing a shift with its consumer base.
“We had about 4 million new customers come into our brand this quarter alone and when you look at the profile of these customers, they were younger and they were more diverse,” he said. “They were looking for content and experience that more related to their lives and so that was another impetus for us to get busy on this.”
Macy’s started a development program designed to give diverse- and women-owned owned businesses in 2011 called “The Workshop at Macy’s.” More than 125 businesses have graduated from the program.
For the new collections, the designers were each paired with one of Macy’s private brands. The company has had partnerships with diverse designers in the past but the collections launched online and in a small number of stores, Gennette said.
This time, Macy’s plans to put the collections in hundreds of stores and the website, he said.
“This is not a moment in time, it’s not a quick fix,” Guion said. “It’s a long-term commitment to how do we identify diverse designers, how to speak to our ever-changing consumer base, and how do we start creating the brand of the future.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko