What Is The Kelly Initiative, Exactly?

by Danielle Naer
Peter White/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the CFDA announced plans to boost inclusivity throughout the fashion industry, which has come under a host of new criticism for its fraught and insufficient response to systemic racial injustice. The council's batch of smaller initiatives aim to bolster new talent, re-train existing teams, and donate to relevant organizations — a promise that, for many, fell short. 250, to be exact — all Black designers, editors and stylists who have come together behind The Kelly Initiative, a four-pronged plan demanding true accountability and equity within the industry.

It all started with a letter to the CFDA, commandeered by three Black creatives — Henrietta Gallina (Creative Director, Universal Standard), Kibwe Chase-Marshall (fashion writer), and Jason Campbell (fashion editor). "We are a diversely ranging coalition of Black fashion professionals, committed to no longer allowing many of our best and brightest talents to go deliberately ignored, obstructed, or erased by the industry’s prioritization of optics over the authentic pursuit of equity," the note started, continuing to outline four critical institutions needed to enact lasting, meaningful change.

The first list item is an industry census, which would examine the dynamics of companies in design, retail, editorial, public relations, and other relevant spaces, elucidating the racial composition of their manifold teams. Headhunting and recruitment firms and agencies would go through a similar audit, ensuring contracted third parties are opening doors for Black talent at every turn. Third, the data retrieved through the census would be made public annually, so that progress can be quantified and tracked over time. Lastly, a "Kelly List" would spotlight 50 Black professionals across the fashion industry, offering them unrivaled visibility, as well as ample networking and growth opportunities.

The Kelly Initiative asked CFDA to review the proposal and start a conversation on or by Juneteenth (Jun. 19), a historic date commemorating Black American liberation. Unfortunately, no response was received that day. "Several organizations have recently contacted us following our announcement, including the Kelly Initiative. We have tremendous respect for all of these groups but at this time have selected a few key groups to work with so that we can focus our energy and fundraising abilities," the CFDA told Vogue on Jun. 18. The Kelly Initiative put out a post through Instagram, indicating that they, themselves had never received a response. "That is precisely the sort of Black erasure that is being actively identified and dismantled within this historic moment in America’s narrative." The post continued to include some call to actions for those looking to help amplify the agenda, including instructions to sign the petition and email the CFDA demanding implementation of the initiative.

To get involved, view the comprehensive action-oriented document here, and continue to amplify the Kelly Initiative to ensure a more just, equitable future.