Today, PVH Corp. joined the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) of the State University of New York (SUNY) as a founding partner of the Social Justice Center at FIT (SJC), a first-of-its-kind higher education initiative established to increase opportunity and accelerate social equity within the fashion and creative industries for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. The effort’s hallmark is a seamless and sustained interconnection between early education, college mentorship and training, and professional career support. PVH is joined by Capri Holdings Limited and Tapestry, Inc. as industry founding partners, each committing $1 million to help launch the center.
The SJC at FIT will nurture a racially and ethnically diverse talent pipeline, from the middle-school classroom to the executive level, that is focused on breaking down systemic barriers and ensuring that BIPOC professionals achieve their full potential. This approach is supported by four pillars:
collaboration among leading corporate and non-profit CEOs who are committed to promoting the talent potential of aspiring BIPOC youth and advancing the careers of BIPOC professionals
access to the talent, creativity, and expertise of FIT faculty and students as resources
a sustained commitment to funding support for scholarships and programs
ongoing accountability that will identify and measure the advancement of BIPOC professionals
“A powerful and much overdue dialogue was sparked last year around diversity and inclusion, which led to a sobering realization that there was much work to do within the creative industries and at FIT as well. Since then, we have been building a strong foundation for the Social Justice Center at FIT. I am grateful for the early support from PVH, Capri Holdings, Tapestry, G-III Apparel Group, and FIT’s other charter partners. They have demonstrated a formidable commitment to these efforts, and I am confident that the center is poised to effect meaningful change,” said FIT President Joyce F. Brown.
Further, Dr. Brown noted, “What we have seen thus far are companies or colleges whose focus is either on the workplace or on education. The focus for the Social Justice Center at FIT is on the whole individual. We will intervene early with BIPOC youth so they can make informed decisions about their future and the careers they might choose to pursue. While they are in college, we will provide exposure to the inner workings of industry as well as concentrated support and training. Our partners in industry will then mentor, guide, and provide opportunities to accelerate their career potential.
“It is our obligation at FIT to mobilize our resources and our network to remove existing obstacles so that racially and ethnically diverse students can be recognized for their value in all of the creative fields, including fashion, beauty, interior design, graphic design, advertising, and communications,” she said.
“This is an incredibly important initiative towards making a real and lasting positive change in the fashion industry, and we are honored to support its launch as a founding partner,” said Stefan Larsson, CEO of PVH Corp. “The goals for the Social Justice Center align with our own values to foster an environment of inclusion, belonging and equity for all across the industry. We believe the unique approach of the SJC to provide support at every stage of the career journey will help ensure that promising creative talent in the BIPOC community have the tools they need, as well as a clearer pathway to access and success.”
To reverse the underrepresentation of BIPOC talent in educational institutions, the SJC at FIT will provide scholarships for middle-school, high-school, and college students. This support includes pre-college instruction that will help position youth for success by preparing them for college-level study, providing exposure to career opportunities in the creative sector. Once the students are in college, pathways to advancement will be offered through internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships provided by SJC partners. Numerous scholarships are already available, including the Social Justice Center Endowed Scholarship, the Amsale Aspire Initiative, the Art Smith Memorial Endowed Scholarship, the Black Student Illustrators Graduation Award, and the Prada Scholarship at FIT, among others.
Concurrently, the SJC partners will work collaboratively with FIT to change the corporate culture and diversify its framework from the ground up. To instill lasting social change, the SJC will promote industry mentorship programs for employees of color, share best practices, establish authentic and relevant networks for BIPOC professionals, develop mid-management advancement programs, and commit ongoing efforts to diversify leadership from entry level to the executive suite and beyond.
An industry advisory council of 16 executives has been established to counsel, collaborate, and help measure progress in achieving equity within the creative industries.
To learn more about the Social Justice Center at FIT and for ways to get involved, contact SocialJusticeCenter@fitnyc.edu or visit fitnyc.edu/socialjusticecenter.