As the Black Retail Action Group Inc. celebrates 40 years of advocacy for diversity and inclusion in the multibillion-dollar fashion industry, its president, Gary L. Lampley, is already looking to the next battle.
“This anniversary is a milestone of significant importance as we intend to highlight the work around equity and inclusion the organization has been involved with for the last forty years. Important toward that end involves linking the BRAG legacy to the larger body of the fashion industry and formulating the work of the organization in a larger social historical context. This is a lofty goal, but one we feel can be achieved,” says Lampley, an adjunct assistant professor at Fashion Institute of Technology and visiting lecturer at Howard University.
Lampley took an early step in that direction when he announced the launch of an Executive Leadership Roundtable at the organization’s 40th Annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner Gala on Oct. 22 at Cipriani on Wall Street. The roundtable, he says, establishes a platform for “innovators, inspirers and legends” of the retail industry to share their vision for diversity and inclusion initiatives, best practices, new developments to drive innovation, employee engagement, customer loyalty, multicultural merchandising and vendor development in the workplace and marketplace. Its inaugural session, held earlier in the day at Fashion Institute of Technology, featured Celia Clancy, president, A.J. Wright; Richard Dent III, senior vice president, chief operating officer and co-leader of Victoria’s Secret PINK; Ron Onorato, regional president of Stop & Shop’s Metro New York Division; Michael A. Vitelli, president of Best Buy Americas; and Robert Wallstrom, president of Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th stores.
In the context of “innovators, inspirers and legends,” this year’s gala theme, BRAG chose as its 2010 honorees Larry H. Barkley Sr., senior vice president at watch retailer Tourneau; supermodel Tyson Beckford; Essence Communi-cations Inc. president Michelle Ebanks; Tommy Hilfiger, principal designer and chair of the Design and Strategy Board at Tommy Hilfiger Inc.; Cookie Johnson, co-owner of Cj by Cookie Johnson, which produces premium denim “for women with curves”; and Delena Sunday, executive vice president, human resources and diversity affairs at Nordstrom Inc.
“This was my story, too,” says Johnson, explaining her choice of market niche. “I couldn’t find jeans to fit my body. It frustrated me to try on every pair of jeans in the store and leave with nothing. I knew there was a hole in the market, it couldn’t just be me. Designers were excluding this demographic.”
Scholarship winners, as well as the 21 college students who took part this year in BRAG’s 11-week, action-packed internship program at Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Ave, Stop & Shop, COACH, The Children’s Place, Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and The TJX Cos. Inc., were part of the gala celebration. “It was by far the best internship experience that I have had and I look forward to being a powerhouse in the industry as I develop my career,” says Damon Epps, a Howard University senior, who interned at TJX.
Terniqua Osborne, a Philadelphia University senior who was a Phillips-Van Heusen buying intern at Calvin Klein, says, “BRAG afforded us the opportunity to meet influential members of the retail industry, allowing us to use our networking skills.”
Such words encourage Lampley to stay the organization’s admittedly difficult course. “The BRAG organization has been and will continue to be an active, breathing part of the society it arose from, rather than an unmoving timepiece to be observed from a distance. This organization not only denotes its culture, on the contrary it is an undividable part of that culture,” he says.