The Folklore Connect and RAISEFashion partner on a new initiative to further empower black-owned luxury brands
Two are better than one. Together RAISEFashion and The Folklore Connect are about to elevate seventeen emerging brands by combining their missions in a new partnership. Led by Amira Rasool, The Folklore founder and CEO, and Felita Harris, founding member and executive director of RAISEfashion, the initiative enforces each organization's ultimate goal of amplifying POC brands in global fashion markets to facilitate growth for brands that previously eluded them. The project starts with an NYFW group showroom from February 9 to 12 at Shopify NY; the Soho-based shared entrepreneurial space.
The project launched with RAISEFashion promoted the opportunity to be selected for The Folklore Connect, a B2B marketplace where eligible brands expanded wholesale account sales activity. Following a platform demo, interested parties submitted their names, and Rasool's team chose 17.
Brands chosen for the six-month free membership had to meet the platform's requirements: two years in business, owned by a person of color or located in an emerging market, contemporary price point or above, actively releasing new products seasonally, and experience with distributing through D2C or B2B channels. New brands will be onboarding every six months.
"Most, if not all, of RAISE's brands met those requirements. We narrowed it down to our retailer mix and their needs. Several department stores and large e-commerce retailers are interested in filling out some categories," Rasool said over email. These retailers need brands prepared to produce larger volumes, deliver according to detailed guidelines, and have the ability to work together long-term, according to Rasool. "The brands selected could confidently be put in front of premium retail store partners and say they're prepared to work with you and have what you are looking for," she added.
The Folklore features emerging market (Africa, South America, Asia, Caribbean...) men's and women's apparel, accessories, beauty, and homeware brands founded or co-founded by someone of diverse racial backgrounds such as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander. Generally, these brands have experienced geographical or racial marginalization that has prevented engaging in global wholesale trade.
"Our mandate has changed. We initially launched our BETA in April 2022 to service emerging African and diasporic brands. Through our period of BETA testing and research, we noticed a greater opportunity to serve a much larger community of business owners struggling with the same access to technology and opportunity," Rasool said of the Connect wholesale platform. The site launched officially in September 2022 and has successfully introduced brands to large retailers, which are anticipated to place orders for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2023 season.
"In the first three months, we helped one of our brands secure their first five-figure order from a prominent U.S. retailer. It was a big moment for the brand as they already had a large U.S. customer base but had not yet found a retailer in the country that could help satisfy that demand. The Folklore launched in 2018 as a retail e-commerce site.
For their part, RAISEfashion will offer mentorship for ten brands from The Folklore Connect. Two will be selected for a RAISEfashion fellowship, which includes ongoing mentorship and financial grants. The programs are funded by corporate donations from the V.F. Foundation, the Tory Burch Foundation, private individuals, and others who support the mission. Additionally, participating corporations also provide career opportunities.
Brands can access a global network of advisors from North America, Africa, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Oceania and more with a wide range of expertise, including e-commerce, finance, merchandising, operations and logistics, production, sales, business development, branding, marketing, public relations, influencer outreach, and creative content strategies.
"RAISEfashion is expanding its global efforts to support and mentor brands in emerging markets from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and BIPOC communities worldwide. Folklore's wholesale platform strengthens the brand experience with retailers while dismantling barriers BIPOC designers face in scaling a business," said Harris of the partnership supporting operational ecosystems of BIPOC brands. This is the first time the network has expanded its reach to BIPOC brands outside of the United States.
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