In 1987, Print Magazine published a portion of Cheryl D. Miller’s graduate thesis, which she wrote while studying at the Pratt Institute. The article, titled “Black Designers Missing in Action,” explored why there are so few Black faces in certain creative fields. And indeed, when I look across the menswear field, I can see some talented Black photographers and models, but few in positions of power, such as designers and actual company owners.
The reasons Miller gave seem small when examined alone, but together, they make the road to success much more difficult. Black people have a harder time getting into art school and paying for expensive education programs. They could get financial aid, of course, but their financial aid packages often need to be higher, which can result in some risk aversion when making career choices. Additionally, they have a more challenging time finding mentors, securing internships, and landing jobs. Aurora James, the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge and accessories label Brother Vellies, has also noted that Black business owners have a much more difficult time securing the loans they need to grow their business. Miller writes: “Addressing the problem of Blacks being under-represented […] requires the support and cooperation of various groups: the families of aspiring designers, the professional design community, corporations, trade groups, and education institutions.”
In that spirit, No Man Walks Alone is launching a mentorship program for Black designers and Black-owned companies. The program is designed to give Black designers and entrepreneurs the professional advice, feedback, and support they may want when working to advance a project. Additionally, No Man Walks Alone will open up their NYC showroom to mentees so it can be a place where they can show their work and collections to buyers.
The mentor panel reads like a who’s who of fashion. Niyi Okuboyejo (Post Imperial), Antonio Ciongoli (18 East), Agyesh Madan (Stoffa) all have extensive experience running their own clothing brands and can advise on nearly any aspect of the business. Nadia Manjarrez is the Design Manager at Flor et.al and can help with womenswear. Herman Solomon specializes in sales and PR; Katie Simcox in product development and studio management; Patrick Richards in legal issues and intellectual property. While these people can’t deliver goods, they can give advice, support, and networking opportunities that are critical to success. For example, Patrick can’t write legal letters for you, but he can explain the issues and processes related to IP protection pro-bono.
“The group of mentors (primary contact) and advisors (functional/secondary) will be evolving and hopefully growing,” says No Man Walks Alone founder Greg Lellouche. “For this first group, we pulled together people we respect in this industry and think can deliver good, actionable advice. Several others volunteered when they heard about our intent to create this program. We tried to think outside of the menswear bubble and include womenswear professionals, as well. Everyone we invited to be a mentor so far has risen to the occasion and said yes.”
Those interested in applying for the program can visit No Man Walks Alone’s website. The application is quick and short, and they’ll get back to you within three business days. Additionally, if you know of someone who would be a good candidate for this program, consider sharing this page with them. Those looking for more support can visit Where are the Black Designers, a platform working to raise the visibility of Black faces in this field.