Moda Operandi Strengthens Support of the Fifteen Percent Pledge

BUILDING TOGETHER: For the first time, Moda Operandi is debuting a trunk show to benefit the Fifteen Percent Pledge.

The assortment highlights the work of eight Black designers that have been selected by the pledge’s founder Aurora James. In 2020, the New York-based designer behind the Brothers Vellies label created the nonprofiit and urged major retailers and corporations to commit 15 percent of their purchasing power to Black-owned businesses. The organization also offers companies guidance to advance equal opportunity for Black-owned businesses and Black people in the workforce. In addition to Moda Operandi, which committed to the pledge in 2021, other supporters include Macy’s Inc., Sephora, Gap Inc., Rent the Runway and others.

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James started the initiative in 2020, following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the other acts of social injustice and police brutality in the U.S. Moda Operandi’s support of the Fifteen Percent Pledge could have a ripple effect beyond its customer base in more than 125 countries in terms of furthering awareness, since the e-commerce platform features 1,000-plus brands and designers in fashion, beauty, fine jewelry, accessories and home. As of now, 10 percent of Moda Operandi’s offerings are comprised of Black-owned brands or Black designers and the aim is to reach 15 percent by the end of this year.

A dress from Sukeina.
A dress from Sukeina.

In the “State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion” survey that was conducted in 2021, 50 percent of employees of color reported that a career in the fashion industry is not equally accessible to all qualified candidates, and nearly one in four questioned the meritocracy of opportunities.

In addition to her own Brothers Vellies label, James and Moda Operandi’s merchandising team selected Sukeina, Dur Doux, Sunni Sunni, Anonlychild, Harwell Godfrey, Head of State and Agbobly for the trunk show. (The latter was founded by Jacques Agbobly and was previously doing business as Black Boy Knits.) The limited-run trunk show debuts for preorder Tuesday at 11 a.m. EST and runs through April 7. Five percent of all of the trunk show sales will be donated to the pledge. Items will retail from $400 to $17,000. The philanthropic element of the trunk show is highlighted on Moda Operandi’s platform. Shoppers are also reminded that “Black people make up 15 percent of the U.S. population — so there’s no reason they shouldn’t make up at least 15 percent of the labels retailers carry.”

Agbobly is among the companies that is being featured in the trunk show.
Agbobly is among the companies that is being featured in the trunk show.

The e-commerce platform hopes to continue the initiative in seasons to come, according to a company spokesperson.

Earlier this month James was in the news for other reasons. The Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously to extend the investigation into Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her 2021 Mat Gala appearance, where she made headlines for her white “Tax the Rich” Brother Vellies gown. The ethics committee determined “there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts.” The board recommended that the Committee on Ethics issue subpoenas to Aurora James, Brother Vellies and publicist Janna Pea.

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