The Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund stands as a beacon of change in the fashion world. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the fund's inspiring journey with its founder, Alicia Pinckney, Senior Apparel Designer, and Gabriele Silva, Talent Acquisition & Recruitment Director at VF. Discover how this initiative, driven by a commitment to diversity and inclusion, emerged as a force for good, bridging the gap for Black students in the fashion and footwear industry. As they share their vision and goals, we invite you to join us on this transformative journey towards a more inclusive future.
What is the idea behind the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund?
Alicia: The idea behind the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund is to support black students studying to enter the underrepresented fashion and footwear industry through scholarship, mentorship and internship placement.
From there, how did the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund get started?
Alicia: I always wanted to create my own scholarship foundation but wasn't sure where or how to start. I was greatly inspired by George Floyd's memorial service during a speech which challenged universities to create funding to support Black students. Because this was during the height of the pandemic, I was living in Switzerland at the time and spent most of the pandemic painting. I started selling prints of my paintings and used the funds as the foundation for the scholarship. I underestimated the power of my network and once I started talking about my initiative, brands began reaching out to me to help fund the scholarship. Since the foundation in 2020, we never had to ask for funding and we've been fortunate enough to award 39 students across the US, a scholarship as well as internship placements in NYC.
How does the cooperation between VF and the other sponsors work?
Gabriele: It was our destiny to start a collaboration with the Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund! Alicia has been a force for good for our Employee Resource Group (ERG) since she was part of our Timberland team in the VF EMEA HQs in Stabio. When we learned about her starting the Black Talent Fund, we wanted to be part of it!
We were looking for a partner to help us build a diverse talent pool for our design creative teams, and the Black Talent Fund was a perfect fit! With it, we can achieve our goal of making our team more diverse and rich in perspective. It's a perfect fit!
Why is, in your opinion, a Black Talent Fund important?
Alicia: Access to opportunity is crucial in any industry but even more so in the fashion and footwear industry. The Black Talent in Design & Fashion Fund helps bridge the gap by providing recruiters a direct pipeline of talent for internships and providing students access to funding and mentorship.
Gabriele: Networking is key when it comes to building a career. By promoting a more diverse pool of candidates and boosting their perspectives via tailor-made mentoring, we are shaping a more diverse talent space not only for VF but also for the apparel and fashion industry in Europe. We are excited to be part of this journey!
What are your hopes for the future of the Black Talent Fund?
Alicia: In just 3 years of our foundation, we are entering global territory by expanding beyond the US. I understand that this initiative isn't very common in Europe, so this is already a great step to what the future could look like for the foundation. I would also love the opportunity to curate an in-person gala where we invite all sponsors, mentors, students and graduates for an evening of celebrating, awarding and networking.
Gabriele: We hope to contribute to Alicia's vision for the future, making careers in design in our industry more accessible for everyone. Watch this space - there's more to come!