To the untrained eye, it might seem like Black Canadian fashion designers didn’t exist until last month. Last month must be when they all materialized, because that’s when so many of them were curated into listicles and Instagram round-up posts that smacked of wonder and spritely discovery.
In fact, last month also happens to be when protests against anti-Black racism broke out across the world — protests that prompted so many people to Google “Black-owned businesses” to support that the search term reached an all-time high throughout the United States.
Finally, people are looking. And George Sully, the Toronto-based fashion entrepreneur and footwear designer, wants to ensure they find what’s been there all along.
This week, Sully launched a website for the Black Designers of Canada (BDoC) index: a comprehensive, interactive directory of Black designers that aims to correct the way they’ve been marginalized, overlooked and underexposed throughout Canadian fashion and design history.
It’s the first resource of its kind, and it includes not only fashion designers, but also accessory, graphic, interior, industrial, and furniture designers. “The point is to lessen the excuses that the industry often makes to justify excluding us,” Sully told HuffPost Canada, over a phone call. “When you’re looking at more than 130 of us on a webpage, it’s hard to say we don’t exist.”
Watch: Krys Lunardo and George Sully discuss Black Designers of Canada with ET Canada. Story continues below.
Sully has been working in the fashion industry for 15 years, and says racism has always been a systemic force he’s had to shadowbox. Securing bank loans, grants, and media attention is much tougher for Black designers, he says. (In fact, a recent report from the US Federal Reserve found that Black-owned firms are twice as likely to be rejected for bank loans — and COVID-19 might be exacerbating that situation.)
And the problem often turns out to be cyclical:...