October is an exciting time for Halloween and early prep for the holidays, but for Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students around the country it’s also a time to celebrate homecoming. Most homecomings are just about a football game, but HBCU homecomings are different. These are occasions for stepping out in your Sunday best and being dressed from head to toe. Last week, Howard University, one of the most prominent HBCUs, celebrated its homecoming, with a week of events, including the annual Yardfest, featuring performances by Da Baby and a surprise (and controversial) Sunday Service with Kanye West, and HU's fashion show, known to be lit every single year. And this year they had Gucci's help to put on the show.
A lot of fashion brands have made missteps involving diversity and inclusion, though very few have actually taken the initiative to make substantial change the way Gucci did. Not only did the Italian house hire a POC to head a new diversity and inclusion role, but in March 2019 they launched the Changemakers Program and Diversity Initiative, following the brand's design mishap with a turtleneck that resembled blackface. Earlier this month, Gucci announced that the company is accepting applications for its North America Changemakers Initiative, including a $1.5 million scholarship program and a $5 million Impact Fund for nonprofit organizations. To kick off the scholarship program, Gucci and Dapper Dan headed to Washington, D.C., to support Howard University during homecoming, the most jubilant time of the fall semester.
Howard University senior and aspiring fashion designer Madison Star Brim served as the chair for this year’s fashion show. Working with Gucci meant a lot for Brim. “A major brand like Gucci doing this with Howard sends such a positive message to other brands who want to have real impact and create real change," she says. "I believe Gucci is showing how seriously they take their role as change makers globally.”
This year’s theme was ROOTS, inspired by Brim’s Howard experience and the creative students with whom she’s surrounded herself. "[Howard students] represent their own diverse cultural backgrounds, and it’s so much deeper than just our experience here at Howard," Brim tells Teen Vogue. "This is something that is represented around the world. ROOTS is really just a celebration of that, of our excellence, of our culture, of what we’ve created as a people.”
The past four years have inspired Brim creatively, but she was also born into the world of fashion as the daughter of fashion stylist Misa Hylton. Hylton is an integral part of fashion and how it has shaped some of hip-hop’s biggest stars, including Lil Kim’s iconic purple VMA’s jumpsuit, from 1999, and the multicolored furs and wigs in her “Crush on You” video, making this a full-circle moment for Brim.
Brim remembers hanging out in her mom’s office with assistants when she was younger, but in addition to those fun times, she got to see the hard work her mom put in as a true visionary. “I remember traveling with my mom for work-related events, watching her bet it all on herself and teach herself as she goes,” Brim says. Brim relied on those same qualities when producing her first fashion show, betting on herself to ensure that her vision would come to life, which included selecting models, designers, and much more.
“If I felt like the designers resonated with the message of the show, exemplified creative and artistic excellence, and had a strong and clear message within their own brands, then I wanted to work with them,” says Brim. “Connecting with them and using this as an opportunity for all of us was really important to me." And they definitely had the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to have their designs walk down the runway alongside major designs from Gucci and Dapper Dan.
Brim wanted the show to shut down Howard’s homecoming week, and she also wanted the show to be inspirational for aspiring designers. “Dapper Dan is the epitome of ‘your gift will create room for you,’ and I think that’s ultimately what I want them to take away from [him],” she says.
Howard’s fashion show was only the beginning, and we can’t wait to see what impact Gucci will continue to make with the Changemakers Scholarship Program. If you’re interested in applying for this program, applications are available via Gucci.com. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, December 31.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue