As we come to the end of Black History Month 2021, let us take the time and the opportunity to reflect on our actions during this monumental moment. We can ask ourselves if we have individually united with, celebrated the history, contributed to, or supported people of color and black-owned businesses this month. While our history as people of color, was birthed in deep-rooted pain and suffering that continues through this 21st century, we’ve managed to turn the pain into growth, affirmation, power, and endless opportunities for ourselves and paying it forward to others.
Black History Month is not just about revisiting our already revealed painful history. It is also about being willing to open our eyes to some of the unrevealed empowering truths, and uplifting history that is rarely acknowledged and applauded. It’s about saying something and doing something as part of our movement toward equality and justice. Jordan Alliance Group (JAG) is honored to be one of the first proactive, black-owned, women-led boutique management consulting firms focused on the betterment of the fashion and textile Industry. We transition towards capitalizing on the concepts of a circular and sustainable economy. Jordan Alliance Group is committed to building healthy relationships with the apparel industry network to assist in planning for the future by working with integrity in the most socially conscious manner, while still increasing profitability.
In this constantly evolving fashion apparel industry, we have seen so much change in the way we conduct our business over the past 100 years. Today we concern ourselves more than ever about incorporating circular economy and sustainability into our business model, not because we WANT to, but because we NEED to in order to preserve our planet. It is our responsibility as business owners, corporations, educational institutions, and individual human beings. Sustainability is about being responsible enough to make the necessary changes to use our resources effectively and efficiently in a way that supports our air, our water, our ozone, and the overall environment. That responsibility also includes supporting our communities and embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion because we understand the importance of different voices and perspectives. It allows for the possibilities of embracing new ideas and supporting teams by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to be effective team players, ultimately working towards one unified vision.
For years, people of color were snubbed, abused, overlooked, and disregarded for our tireless work and contributions, even in the fashion apparel industry. Before Black History Month officially ends, let us take a short stroll down history lane to visit two of the innovative Black Fashion Designers whose genius helped shape the history of fashion. Among these innovators, is Anne Lowe, a black designer born in 1898 in Clayton, Alabama, who was introduced to fashion by her mother, who designed dresses for High society women during times of segregation. When Anne’s mother passed away, at age 16, Anne had no choice but to step in and complete the dresses her mom had been working on. Anne enhanced her skills when she attended S.T. Taylor Design School in New York City, then opened her own gown business in 1950 in Harlem, N.Y. In 1953 she was given the opportunity of a lifetime when she was asked to design the wedding dress of Jacqueline Kennedy.
When Jackie’s dress created a buzz, gaining lots of attention, she was asked who designed her fabulous gown, and she simply replied, “A black woman”. Jackie never accredited the work to Ann Lowe. Anne continued making custom-designed dresses for the wealthy and the elite. Unfortunately, her career would continue to be filled with a lack of acknowledgment for her amazing work, with little financial compensation. But this Black History Month, JAG is giving Anne Lowe the long-overdue recognition she so richly deserves.
Zelda Wynn Valdes is another black fashion design innovator of the early 20th century who was never fairly compensated and embraced for her contributions to the industry. She was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in 1905, then moved to White Plains, New York, after graduating from high school. Zelda watched her grandmother work as a costume seamstress, and she began following in her footsteps, also developing a love for designing clothing and costumes for women. Her ultimate test would come when she designed a dress for her grandmother, and it won her approval, and she began working in her uncle’s shop as an assistant tailor. There, she learned the value of perfecting fit to embrace and accent the curves of a woman’s body. She officially became a costume designer for celebrities and legends like Ella Fitzgerald, who became one of her long-time clients when she opened her own shop on Broadway and West 158th Street, in 1948.
Zelda’s biggest opportunity came when Playboy magazine founder, Hugh Hefner hired her to assist in designing a tight-fitting, seductive costume for the curvaceous women that would represent his magazine and waitresses in his Playboy club. This design would be the birth of the iconic Playboy bunny suit with the fluffy tail, the bunny ears, and a strapless fitted corset. The Playboy bunny costume would contribute to the magazine’s success, which peaked at 7 million issues and monthly circulation in 1971. Zelda would never receive the full compensation and recognition she deserved for her contribution to the Playboy bunny costume. Some, after her death, have even disputed her involvement in this iconic piece of work. While we do not know exactly what happened, we do know that Zelda Wynn Valdes is to be applauded this Black History Month for her contributions to the fashion apparel industry, no matter what they were.
As Jordan Alliance Group continues to grow, our goal is to keep educating and supporting corporations, big and small academic institutions, and individuals looking for the assistance needed to help create more sustainable solutions. We help turn challenges and setbacks into amazing opportunities for improvements in this apparel supply chain industry. Fredrick Douglas once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. As part of the JAG team, I have honored people of color during this Black History Month and will continue beyond. There is so much, and so many more, to be celebrated who have gone unrecognized.
Our JAG founder and CEO, Ilka Jordan, is known for her strong entrepreneurial spirit, clear strategic vision, and inspirational leadership in digital transformation. That leadership has contributed to building a knowledgeable community and network of industry experts. Our purpose-driven strategic framework helps companies achieve a sustainable fashion supply chain that ultimately combines purpose with profitability. This means strengthening key aspects of a business’s core operating model and aligning sustainability objectives in all business strategies, value chains, customer engagement, and organizational culture. Please join me and the JAG team in saluting Black History Month and overall Black Excellence, seen and unseen. We celebrate change as we are an amazingly resilient, dedicated, determined people, with so much more to contribute.