Three fashion insiders shared their paths to creating progress at the 2021 ESSENCE Fashion House. Chris Collins, Founder of World Of Chris Collins, Groovey Lew Fashion Consultant and Celebrity Stylist, and Brandice Daniel CEO and Founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row, revealed how they worked their way into the industry during the “Black Fashion & Beyond: The Journey To Success” panel.
Lew revealed that networking across helped him succeed. “That’s one thing I did is reach out to my Black designers,” he said. “And see if I can assist them, or if I can work with them and that’s what helped me build.” He named June Ambrose, April Walker, and Karl Kani as examples of those he connected with and said those in his community seemed more approachable than “Polo,” or “Tommy Hilfiger,” at the time.
Collins, a former Ralph Lauren model who is also a heavyweight in the fragrance industry, shared that he embraced the not-so-glamorous sides of the industry on his way up. “Sometimes people see the end of where you are, but they don’t realize the journey that you go through,” he noted. “I remember I used to be on billboards all over the place and people used to come to me like ‘I really want to do that, I can do that.”
“I’m like, well you didn’t see me taking the bus to the city from Jersey, trying to go to castings. It’s a rough road.”
“Start and fail,” he advised. “If it was easy it wouldn’t be great.”
Daniel revealed that she set out concrete networking goals to achieve her vision for Harlem’s Fashion Row, without fashion connections. “At the top of every year, I would identify three people I wanted to know my name by the end of the year,” she said. “The next year I would pick three new people—and it worked.”
She also sent those people handwritten cards, books, and other thoughtful gifts to express her passion. “I built relationships – and it wasn’t like ‘oh here’s my card,’ it was real relationships.”
Daniel went on to offer advice to those who might be discouraged by unanswered emails or unread DMs. “That was my life for like ten years,” she said. “You have to be doing something for the right reason. So your why needs to be so strong that you’re willing to withstand anything to achieve your goal.”
Watch the full conversation in the video above and for more of everything you missed at ESSENCE Fashion House, head over to ESSENCE Studios.