INC.LUSIVITY: A Panel Discussion Event
By Kieran Kern
In New York City, nothing happens in a small way, so when a deluge coincided with the OSL INC.LUSIVITY panel at Yabu Pushelberg Studios, the panelists and attendees knew it was time to break out their chicest rainwear.
The panel consisted of industry professionals at the forefront of inclusive style discussing how businesses can open their organizations, products, and marketing to include all people regardless of gender identity, race, class, sexuality, or disability and move their businesses forward.
Fashion Editor, Lauren Chan ,moderated a panel that featured: Social Activist and Social Media Manager at the Met Kimberly Drew, 2 Blind Brothers Founders Bryan and Bradford Manning, and Open Style Lab Executive Director Grace Jun discussed how and why businesses should embrace inclusion. Kimberly Drew is an African American woman in a field dominated by white men, she works to keep being heard and have a place at the table. In 2016, she took part in a call-and-response artist talk series called Ten Arguments. For her “argument”, Drew was paired with deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim. “I realized, I didn’t know how to engage her.” She calls their first meeting a “talk failure.” Eventually they worked through it together. This illustrates how when people are underrepresented even the most forward thinking may not have the toolkit to engage them in a meaningful way. They just have to be willing to put in the work.
Bryan Manning says that technology, and social media has enabled companies to reach niche customers in a way that was impossible five years ago. The 2 Blind Brothers inclusion strategy is three-fold. They market to their niche; the clothing is manufactured at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind . Seventy percent of the staff are blind/have a visual impairment, and the profits go towards curing blindness. Bradford Manning expanded on targeting a diverse niche. “It’s not about virtue signaling, be super-authentic and genuine to the community you’re serving.” Grace Jun noted that “It comes down to having the conversation about ageism and disability.” Conversations about race, size, gender identity, and disability disrupt industries. She shared the importance of being a part of the community you serve, and of knowing where you want your company to go. “Approaching partners is like speed dating.” With a well thought out explanation of what you are doing, you show your commitment. In Drew’s industry, “Art is complicit in a lot of ways, it is comfortable with the ills of racism, ableism, and patriarchy.” She continues that when an individual is an expert or authority it can be hard to question them. Drew refers to herself as a “Warrior of Small Battles.” Email is her weapon of choice. She encourages others to call out the micro-aggressions that may be overlooked in order to keep moving forward.
To keep businesses moving forward Bradford advises that “When compassion fails, hit them in their wallet.” The reality of is inclusivity, it is not just a “feel good” initiative for a business. Whether designing super-premium shirts, art experiences, or adaptive clothing, opening a brand up to diverse populations isn’t “nice”, it is necessary for businesses to maintain desired trajectory.
About the Event:
INC.LUSIVITY brings together progress makers to discuss how businesses can make their organizations, products, and marketing more inclusive. Profits of the event will go to Open Style Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making style and clothing accessible to people of all abilities. The panel consists of industry professionals/firms doing progressive work to move business forward:
MODERATOR: Lauren Chan, Fashion Editor
Kimberly Drew, Social Activist and Curator at The Met
Bryan & Bradford Manning, Founders of 2 Blind Brothers
Grace Jun, Executive Director of Open Style Lab