DT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? And some highlights in your career? Please name drop (laughs).
BW: I am a 30-year veteran of the footwear industry and a graduate from The Fashion Institute of Technology’s 1st Accessory Design Program.
I spent the first 10 years of my career with Kenneth Cole Productions, starting out as a direct design assistant to Kenneth, and held the position of Senior VP of Merchandising for all women’s shoes when I left the company.
From 2002 – 2010, I was Creative Director at Nina Footwear Corporation; and, since 2011, have transitioned my career from full-time employment to creative consulting.
DT: Why is it important to have diversity in the beauty and fashion industries?
BW: There need to be people who represent and advocate for communities that have specific needs that have been traditionally overlooked. A current example of how this can make a tangible difference recently occurred here at Nina:
Our design team was tasked to develop a range of new nude patent color for pumps. In the process of organizing a color range, one of the members of our team, who is African American, pointed out that we were so concentrated on updating our existing beige color range that we were ignoring an entire loyal customer base. She explained that they would also love a nude color that matched their darker skin tone. Because she shared her personal perspective, it made all the difference for our upcoming palette, our colors now range covers skin tones from pale to dark.
DT: Have you seen shifts in the last decade?
BW: Absolutely. It has been slow, but it is definitely occurring. I think Rihanna’s collaboration with Sephora on a broad range of foundation shades is a perfect example of a woman of color using her fame to challenge an industry’s limited standards and expand its ability to service a broader range of people.
DT: In a perfect world, what would be an ideal evolution in the industries of beauty and fashion?
BW: Both industries have been focused on elimination models, which narrow down the parameters of beauty into tiny unattainable ideals, that traditionally have eliminated the majority of the populace.
I would like to see more cultural and ethnic diversity in our industry leadership. Thought leaders that recognize the value of inclusion.
DT: Do you realize that your presence in the industry, inspires many people around the world?
BW: When I was young, I didn’t fit in and wanted to be anyone but a closeted gay boy. I looked into the future and couldn’t imagine the exciting life I am now living.
As a gay man, I recognize that I am in a position to inspire other young gay people to go after their dreams and goals.
DT: What advice would you give your younger self?
BW: “Don’t ever give up on yourself. You are resilient, smart, kind, and courageous. Just when you think it will never work out, when you are ready to throw the towel, you will rise up and have a career you will love.”
DT: Are you living your purpose?
BW: Yes. My purpose for many years was to create beautiful things; and now, my purpose is to give my 30 years of knowledge away. My purpose today is to mentor and guide and develop the talent of tomorrow.
DT: Finish this sentence, “I am grateful for…”
BW: “…my career and the opportunities it has provided me.”
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