Feb 20, 2019

Event Recap: Women of Color FashTech Brunch in NYC


During New York Fashion Week I had the opportunity to head to Manhattan and help with the marketing and PR efforts for a very special Women of Color FashTech Brunch produced by three incredible boss babes including Brittany Hicks of G.I.F.T., Jessica Couch of Luxor and Finch, and Ellie Zambrano of Geek of Chic. Brittany and I connected last year when she spoke on the "Future of Fashion" panel at the Gossip & Glamour Style Summit and I immediately fell in love with her energy and enthusiasm for creating pathways into the fashion industry for women of color through careers in technology.

The New York event provided a platform for women working in fashion, tech, and media, to discuss a wide range of relevant topics including diversity, inclusion, community-building, and the need for companies to create better pathways for women of color to advance in their careers. Panelists included Uzumna Udeh, Senior Finance Analyst of Global Markets for ASOS, Kelly Stickel of the retail consultancy firm Remodista, C-Suite Coach Founder Angelina Darrisaw-Cheeks, and Jessica Couch of Luxor and Finch, who also co-produced the event.


I was struck by the openness and honesty of the women of the panel. They each shared personal stories about the challenges experienced thus far in their careers and the obstacles that remain as they move up the corporate ladder. The discussion covered a variety of topics including the spending power of women of color, the importance of being authentic in business environments, and why it's critical that industry stakeholders support efforts to advance inclusion and diversity within their organizations. The conversation also touched on the importance of mentorship for women and the need for strategic community-building across industries.

Jessica Couch of Luxor and Finch spoke about the need for brands to be more inclusive when it comes to sizing. Fit issues run rampant in the fashion industry and the non-standard sizing market is now a $22 billion dollar industry, leaving a large portion of business on the table for brands who extend their size ranges to include women of all body shapes. Efforts to address this by fashion brands would also reduce e-commerce returns due to poor fit issues, which would ultimately help make strides toward sustainability efforts in the industry.


Kelly Stickel of Remodista discussed the need for companies to embrace diversity and inclusion as more than just buzz words. "Brands need to truly make an effort to hire and retain diverse talent," she added. Uzunma Udeh of ASOS spoke about the challenges that women of color face when they are the minority within their organization. In addition to lacking strong support networks, there is also the reality that professional mentors can be hard to find and that opportunities for advancement are not equally distributed. "It's hard to be yourself when you feel like you have so much to prove," says Udeh, "It's important for people who have access to change to be a resource and a voice for those that may not have one."


Angelina Darrisaw-Cheeks of C-Suite Coach spoke about the need for companies to make meaningful investments in communities of color. She also called for greater transparency, urging women to share their stories of how resources given by companies have made a difference in their lives, whether it's sponsoring an employee to attend a networking lunch, or simply giving them access to professional development resources. Angelina also spoke about the dangers of conformity, stating that "Every time you change who you are to fit into a room, you're telling the women who are following in your footsteps that they too have to change who they are. You are enough." That statement really hit home for me.  It was a stark and important reminder to be myself, regardless of where I am, or who is sitting across the table from me.

Guests of the event enjoyed a 3-course brunch, signature cocktails hosted by Hennessy, swag bags, and strategic networking opportunities both before and after the brunch. Sponsors included MouthMedia Network, Brutzkus Gubner, Geek of Chic, Gossip & Glamour, Amazon, Remodista, and more.

This event was incredible from start to finish. The energy in the room was contagious and it was clear that the brunch was relevant, timely, and beautifully executed by the production team. My goal is to help bring the Women of Color FashTech Brunch to Seattle later this year so that we can continue to have meaningful conversations about diversity and inclusion. Please stay tuned for more info and let me know who YOU want to see on the panel. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the full photo gallery from the event on Facebook.

Photo credit: Jajuan Burton

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