Nurturing the Next Fashion Leaders

by nyljaouadi1
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With the New York charity circuit on hiatus, here is how some philanthropists and society figures are spending their time and resources during the pandemic.

Age: 40

Occupation: fashion designer, artist, musician, entrepreneur

Favorite charities: Fashion Scholarship Fund; No Negativity

Where have you been sheltering?

I’ve been spending most of my time in my studio on the North Side of Chicago. Digital conferencing has had to replace flying all over the world, so I’ve created space where I can work on fashion, my artwork and my music — a multipurpose studio that I’ve come to love.

What does it look like?

It’s a beautiful mess, a sort of open space that reflects the cross-disciplinary aspects of my practice.

You are a board member of the Fashion Scholarship Fund, which supports the next generation of industry leaders. What do we owe them?

We owe a complete restructuring and rethinking of our assumptions. In the past, hiring was based on accreditation: If you went to this or that school, or came from this or that background, we could give you a position. Now we need now to open our doors to a generation that is newly empowered, that comes with social media tools, with concepts, ideas and diverse opinions, not just accreditation and ambition.

You have mentored young Black and brown people. What has that taught you?

It’s a different world from the one I’ve experienced. The turbulence of the past year has put things — systemic racism, unconscious bias — on our front step, not in our backyard.

Your fans wait in long lines to buy your designs. Post-pandemic, will those lines have a future?

I don’t think so. If you are measuring the success of something by a line, that’s a misstep. The line is a side effect of my practice, not the point. The point is to make something that is worthy of existing.

What do you do for enjoyment?

I’m not the type to sit on a couch and watch a film. I’m passionate now about my label, Off-White. More than a purely fashion label, it’s a generational platform for highlighting and sharing stories. We’ll be replacing a fashion show with an online television station that we plan to launch during fashion week.

What has been most troubling?

In the beginning there was the fear. Every package, every envelope that arrived, every trip to the store with masks and gloves — all these things were so disturbing. Even now when I walk in my neighborhood, I see so many stores for rent. So much is empty. It’s heartbreaking.

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