Janie and Jack, a subsidiary of Gap Inc., and Harlem’s Fashion Row are gearing up for Saturday’s launch of a capsule collection and virtual runway show hosted by LeBron James’ five-year-old daughter Zhuri.
Three multicultural designers — Kimberly Goldson, Kristian Lorén and Richfresh — have helped create the dance-inspired line for girls and boys. Adhering to COVID-19-related regulations, the event was pretaped.
Harlem Fashion Row’s founder and chief executive officer Brandice Daniel spoke at a Gap Inc. summit about diversity and inclusion in January. Shelly Walsh, senior vice president and general manager of Janie and Jack, said, “She is one of those people who is unstoppable in such an uplifting way. I wanted to connect with her personally and professionally.”
Walsh and Daniel started to put a partnership together within days. After Daniel provided a short list, she, Walsh and Janie and Jack’s vice president of design Cindy Huske narrowed down the field and the three participating designers signed on. Plans for an in-person meeting were canceled due to the pandemic, so the collaboration was handled remotely from start to finish.
As of Thursday, more than 1,500 people had RSVP’d for Saturday’s virtual event that will include a DJ, fashion show and James as host. Attendees will be able to see the five-year-old’s interviews with the designers. The star of YouTube’s “All Things Zhuri” has 371,000 followers on Instagram. As for whether her social media was the appeal of working together, Walsh said, “I’ve always been a fan. And as a brand, we’ve been a fan — we watch and follow her. She has this incredible energy. She has a good following. We love everything about her — how she shows up. That was also our sweet spot to think there was this amazing five-year-old out there.”
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James was not available for an interview, due to her contract. Her famed NBA Finals-playing father was not present for the Harlem Fashion Row show’s taping.
Shoppers will have to wait until Oct. 15 to buy the Janie and Jack x Harlem’s Fashion Row collection, which features 10 to 12 styles for each designer. Retailing from $19 to $139, the line will be sold online via Janie and Jack and also in some of its stores. The special-edition children’s wear will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. “That’s been our goal from the beginning — let’s sell out,” Walsh said.
Like most retailers, Janie and Jack has seen a big shift to online shopping this year. In addition, Gap Inc. led all of its brands through a “really safe reopening of stores in a timely manner that made sense. We’ve seen customers come back to the stores. They feel really good about the experiences they’re having with all the protocols,” Walsh said. “We definitely see a movement and comfort level to online shopping even more so than ever.”
While some designers and fashion executives have cautioned about the tokenism that may be interpreted in some initiatives being taken, Walsh said she certainly hopes that won’t be the case with this one. “We started this collaboration before the [Black Lives Matter] movement really started going. This was built out of a genuine, combined partnership to stand up and do what was right and also to really start being authentic with our work to go forward. This a long-term commitment for us,” Walsh said.
Earlier this year Janie and Jack supported Icon360, a fund that Harlem Fashion Row created to help Black designers and designers of color deal with financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, with a $25,000 donation. Janie and Jack has also provided sponsorship support for Harlem Fashion Row and Walsh and Huske have pitched in at events with the organization’s Designer Retreats. “She’s powerful and we love to support her that way,” Walsh said of Daniel.
In addition to Janie and Jack, Harlem Fashion Row has teamed up with another Gap-owned entity, Banana Republic, to launch a design competition for Black, Indigenous and people of color who are designers.
As for how three multicultural designers’ children’s line will help change some people’s perceptions, Daniel said, “It’s difficult to be what you don’t see. Since the beginning of HFR, the thing that‘s kept me motivated is thinking about the generations behind us. I wanted to be sure our work opened doors for the seven or eight-year-old. However, I never envisioned that we would be able to directly impact the next generations by partnering with Janie and Jack.”
Describing the collaboration as a “history-making collection,” Daniel said it will be an inspiration to young children of color, who dream of being fashion designers. “After they see Kimberly, Fresh and Kristian, they will know that anything is possible for them.”
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