It’s no secret that fashion is a cut-throat industry where only the strongest and brightest survive. For fashion creatives without the right resources or industry contacts, a foot in the door can seem unattainable and out of arm’s reach. That’s why Harlem’s Fashion Row founder Brandice Henderson is making it her duty to provide the proper resources, opportunities and knowledge to rising fashion creatives at a young age in order to help them thrive in the industry.
Developing the Harlem’s Fashion Row University (HFRU) concept earlier this year as a way to properly equip students for a successful career in fashion, Black Enterprise caught up with Henderson to discuss what influenced her to start HFRU, what are some of the biggest challenges fashion students face, and what type of experiences will students gain from HFRU.
Can you tell me what prompted you to start Harlem’s Fashion Row University and what types of experiences will students receive from the program?
So designers of color make up less than 1% of designers that are available in the market and my thought was maybe that’s a pipeline issue. Maybe we’re not catching them when they’re in school and really giving them the information they need to expose them to the industry, and so that’s what HFRU is about. Let’s catch them while they’re in school and expose them to the industry. Let’s introduce them to industry professionals and give them opportunities right now that will hopefully be valuable for them if they decide to launch their own collection or work in this industry.
We started out with a launch at Howard University with June Ambrose, and it was a really great event and it was a way for us to also announce a student design competition that we held with McCafe and it was amazing. We got lots of entries from students and we ended up selecting a student from Bowie State University. She got a $1,000 scholarship and was also able to dress Janell Snowden at the 365 Black Awards. That opportunity doesn’t often come to HBU schools and right now we do have an HBCU focus.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you hear students in fashion school talk about and how is Harlem’s Fashion Row helping to address those challenges?
For them the fashion industry feels very far off and they don’t feel like it’s accessible so I think the biggest challenge they have is just having real life experiences and having people who actually work in the industry that can share their real life experiences in fashion.
How do students who are interested in being a part of the student competition submit their information?
We actually have another competition coming up next year that we will launch on our website. There’s an area called HFRU and they can connect with us there. They can connect with us by filling out a form under contact us on the website. We actually do look at every single last one of them. And if they’re interested in us coming to their school or bringing a panel to their school, they can also let us know what school they go to and connect us with their fashion department and we will absolutely look into that.