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FMA Wonderland Magazine Interview

03.12.2020

Spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement, the non-profit organisation talk diversity in the industry and educating brands.

If there is one thing 2020 has shown us, it’s that many business and industries have a long way to go in diversifying their workforce and understanding cultures. From creating opportunities and meaningful changes to the landscape, many businesses have taken steps to create change, but one company is taking it further. Enter the Fashion Minority Alliance. Launched in September by Barbara Kennedy-Brown and Cheryl Koneth, the non-profit organisation felt spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year and the criticism of the fashion industry. With various brands falling victim to cancel culture, two duo saw this as an opportunity to teach brands in fashion on their failings and create a community for minorities on how to venture into the industry.

“We had seen a lot of ‘called out’ and ‘cancelled’ from social media users,” Barbara said. “Along with almost knee-jerk responses from brands to participate in marketing that specifically targeted this. Both of these elements made us think about the actual bones of the industry and how these are far more important than marketing initiatives that are there to target consumers but don’t go any deeper.”

Launching various workshops and mentoring schemes, we caught up with Barbara, talking about the creation of the FMA, getting involved, and where they see the fashion industry in five years.

Check out the interview below…

Hello Barbara! How is lockdown 2.0 treating you?

Lockdown 2.0 has been interesting. It is a real shame that we are back here, but I think we all learned a lot from the first time and proved that as a global community we are resilient. It has highlighted that there are other ways to do things and to challenge the norm, which always excites me. There have been lots of exciting conversations that have continued during the second lockdown. We are working hard to keep the momentum for Fashion Minority Alliance going, alongside other exciting projects that we are working on.

Tell us about how you first started Fashion Minority Alliance with Cheryl Konteh?

We launched in September and, along with all of the founding members, we have long had a common objective of creating opportunities within the fashion industry for minority individuals through our businesses. I run a fashion PR agency and, as you know, Cheryl is a globally renowned celebrity stylist. We have both experienced the industry in many ways, as have all of the founding members involved in Fashion Minority Alliance, and it felt the right time for us to form an Alliance of like-minded people and groups wanting to make meaningful changes to the landscape. Our founding members work across the fashion and beauty landscape at brands from Farfetch, to Kurt Geiger, to Asos, to the Telegraph Media Group, to independently owned brands such as 79Lux, Emefa Cole, Charlotte Mensah, plus we have built alliances with businesses such as the Fashion Minority Report, Dawn Mason’s Seat At The Table, ChloéDigital and across the EMEA with organisations such as Creative Jam Session in The Netherlands, DInaba in South Africa, and Room4All in France to name a few and Caroline Rush, at the British Fashion Council, has also been extremely supportive.

How did you land on the name?

There is a lot of importance in a name and we all wanted it to be something that had positive connotations and was inclusive. The Fashion Minority Alliance is really about community and people working together to share information, support one another and provide a pathway for both businesses and people coming into the industry. When we talked about a name there were so many that could have represented us as a collective, we wanted the Fashion Minority Alliance to benefit all minorities and also engage with those leaders in the industry that could maintain our work with a view to longevity and purpose.

Was there any single event that spurred you into creating this extremely important non-profit, or more a culmination of everything that’s happened in the past year?

This has always been something that I and the founding members wanted to do. None of us started off in the industry on anyone’s coattails and we all worked really hard to get here, having learned a lot along the way and every last one of our founding members has experienced racism and seen a lack of diversity at all levels. So FMA for us is really more of a response to many years of working in fashion and media. We felt spurred on by Black Lives Matter and criticism of the fashion industry which ensued. We had seen a lot of ‘called out’ and ‘cancelled’ from social media users, along with almost knee-jerk responses from brands to participate in marketing that specifically targeted this. Both of these elements made us think about the actual bones of the industry and how these are far more important than marketing initiatives that are there to target consumers but don’t go any deeper.

Read the full interview here: https://www.wonderlandmagazine.com/2020/12/01/fashion-minority-alliance/