If the last couple of weeks of protests have taught us anything, is that we can all do better to be more inclusive. The fashion industry, while it certainly has a lot to do, is starting to recognise how it also needs to change, and this period has been the wake-up call for some much needed reflection.

A brand who is making change a reality, is Seattle-based jewellery brand, Boma. Last week, they announced the launch of a grant program that will provide design mentorship, sampling development and production opportunities in silver and gold jewellery to Black jewellery designers “My goal is to build a real long-term partnership with emerging Black jewellery designers that help them to grow and be successful in the long-term,” says the CEO of Boma, Suzanne Chaya, who upon reflection realised that the brand, while being a pioneer in ethical manufacturing, hadn’t worked with a Black jewellery designer in its 40 years of business. It took a statement on Instagram from Malene Barnett, Founder of the Black Artists + Designers Guild, to make her realise that racism isn’t just obvious examples of hatred. “I am in a leadership position and I can make decisions that help, benefit or support those who I choose to work with or not. We are part of several sustainable advocacy groups and an introduction to understanding how to address climate change is inequality and racism,” shares Chaya. “At the time, I still didn’t recognise how I could contribute and help because I had the extreme examples of inequality and racism in my head. I now see that’s the problem and as a privileged person I recognise with my resources I have to do more to help others.”

The program for emerging Black designers will consist of a $7,500 grant which will entail design mentorship, materials, resources, development and sampling expertise to a selected grantee. London-based designer, Estelle Dévé – who had an extensive career as a jewellery designer and consultant –  will be providing guided mentorship and one-on-one coaching with the grantee. “When I decided to go consulting freelance, Suzanne’s factory was always at the top of my recommendation list when working with new clients as I knew she treated her employees extremely well and they were one of the most ethical partners one could associated oneself with. She reached out earlier this year and offered for me to design and consult for Boma,” Dévé says, explaining how she got involved with Boma. “I had been toying with the idea of setting up a mentorship programme for the BAME community alongside my brand but I was wondering how to provide the best support when I didn’t have the financial capacity to provide a monetary grant to back it up. When Suzanne mentioned her idea I thought it was the missing part of the puzzle and the perfect opportunity to try and make a sustainable change.”  Through the Boma grant program, the grantee will have opportunities to test new designs in the market before expanding production, therefore minimising the risk of manufacturing goods that go unsold – this financial loss is one of the main challenges to a new brand.

Dévé notes that one of the biggest problems with the jewellery and fashion industry is its lack of transparency. “It is a very secretive industry in the sense that people don’t tend to share resources such as their factories and suppliers names, which makes it very difficult for people to enter. It has historically been a very male-orientated and white privileged ‘club’ which is really hard to break into. I think putting resources available together and sharing them publicly in a way that allows anyone with great ideas to access would be a great first step.” Her final words are a lasting message on what we can all do to create change. “I think we have a long way to go for the industry to be more inclusive but I truly do believe that if we all pitch in on a personal level, be it by providing time or resources, or just speaking up when we witness systemic racism in any organisation, we can really start the foundation of a better world.”

Applications are open to all Black jewellery designers worldwide and can be submitted on Boma Jewellery’s ​grant page​. The submission deadline is June 22, 2020.

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