Vogue Takes Pledge to Feature More Black Creatives

Fifteen Percent Pledge welcomes Vogue on board. Photo Credit: Instagram @15percentpledge.

A new initiative opens up doors for POC.

Taya Coates | Contributing Writer

Vogue made a promising commitment to the Black Community on Tuesday. The company took the Fifteen Percent Pledge to increase diversity in the company. The movement was created by Aurora James, founder of sustainable artisan accessories brand Brother Vellies. She noticed a lot of performative activism on social media from companies amidst the Black Lives Matter protests for the murder of Mr.George Floyd. She sought to turn hashtags into actual change for years to come. The company’s mission is to allow at least fifteen percent of space in a company, whether that be on shelves or in the boardroom, to be held by Black men and women. The official website states that the inspiration came from the statistic that Black people make up fifteen percent of the U.S population. On a post on Instagram, James said, “Thank you to Vogue for committing to hiring more Black freelance photographers, writers, stylists, beauty teams and models.”  The 15% the publication promises to reach will be a massive increase from the small number of Black employees Vogue has now. 

This change means a lot for POC, who primarily are left out of Vogue’s internal narrative. In June, Vogue’s publisher, Conde Nast, was called out for lack of inclusion on Twitter. Many ex-employees called out the company culture for not being welcoming and excluding Black creatives. Numerous incidents such as whitewashing, lack of Black creatives in leadership, and the recent lousy execution of legendary Olympian Simone Byles’ cover have damaged their reputation.

Longtime Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour sent out a public apology letter following the viral criticism of the company.  She said in her statement, “I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators,…We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes”. Although Vogue is receiving backlash, they are not the sole party responsible for racism in fashion. The industry as a whole has a lot of work to do when it comes to presenting Black people and Black culture.

Vogue is just the beginning of this change. On her Instagram page, @15percentpledge, James calls out some of the largest companies that lack Black representation on their shelves or in their company. Followers of the Instagram page work with James to rally behind the cause. As a result of users tagging the company, ‘@target’ for example, thousands of comments naturally draw attention to the initiative. This strategy has proven to be efficient after major beauty retailer Sephora was the first to respond to the loud calls to action. Other major brands, West Elm, Rent the Runway, Yelp, and even dispensary company MedMen followed in committing to the Fifteen Percent Pledge. James is still hitting heavy for the most prominent players in the market. 

Fifteen Percent Pledge flyers urging companies to change. Photo Credit: Instagram @15percentpledge.
Fifteen Percent Pledge flyers urging companies to change. Photo Credit: Instagram @15percentpledge.

Since the pledge’s Instagram launch on June 1, the account has reached some impressive landmarks. The page now has over 60,000 followers and has led James to be one of the women featured on the Vogue September Cover. In her interview with Vogue, James stated what motivated her to start the initiative; “I’m a fighter,”..“I started Brother Vellies at a flea market and fought my way into every scenario, tooth, and nail. I’m always going to fight for my company—and for people that haven’t had the same opportunities”.

Portrait of James by Jordan Casteel for Vogue’s September 2020 Issue. Photo Credit: Instagram @aurorajames.
Taya Coates | Contributing Writer
Taya Coates | Contributing Writer

Taya is a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA majoring in Fashion Merchandising and minoring in Journalism. She hopes to pursue a career as a fashion editor and eventually start her own publication. She is passionate about covering stories on style, social activism, and culture. Her personal blog is https://atrendypenny.fashion.blog/.