BRANDICE HENDERSON: Chief Executive Officer – Harlem’s Fashion Row, Inc.
BS Fashion Merchandising, University of TN at Chattanooga
BS International Trade & Marketing at Fashion Institute of Technology (Expected Spring 2013)
Previous Job Experience:
Buyer, Charming Shoppes
Production Manager for International Intimates
In May of 2007, there I was in a Brooklyn restaurant in Dumbo at a fashion show. I have no idea who invited me, or how me and my friend got there, but it was there that I felt compelled to do the same thing in Harlem- my new home. I started planning. I invited five boutiques to be a part of it and after much convincing (sometimes visiting the store 9 – 10 times) four of the boutiques said yes. Next up, was finding the venue which turned out to be the River Room, a really beautiful restaurant overlooking the George Washington Bridge.
I thought, “whew it’s all done,” but boy, was I wrong. Having no idea what it actually took to put a show on, I just called people. I would share my vision for this show, ask people to help and they would come on board. I couldn’t pay them, but I could list them on this or that for experience and credit purposes. During the planning process, I knew that this would become bigger. Call it faith! I had never loved anything the way I loved planning Harlem’s Fashion Row. That year, we had about 15 people come on board the HFR team and we made it happen. Three months after the initial idea a fashion show was in the works. It happened! I look back on that night and laugh at so many things I did wrong, but I can’t forget the feeling in the room that night. It was as if something had lifted me and I was floating.
In 2009, with a year of fashion show production under my belt we started planning the 2nd Harlem’s Fashion Row presentation with PR Noir as our publicist and Randal Jacobs as the creative director. For this show, I wanted to focus on designers but we had to almost beg designers to be a part of this show! We also honored Stephen Burrows that year and let me tell you that was one of my biggest dreams come true. Mr. Burrows was a celebrity in my eyes, so for me to meet and speak with him was one of my greatest joys. During this year, I began to talk to designers and hear their challenges. With no money, no connections to the industry, and no investors it’s tough to make it as a designer of color. The vision began to grow and in 2009, HFR was able to secure meetings for each of the designers with two major retailers.
In 2010, we started our first designer relations department. The HFR team and I knew that there must be something else we could do besides provide a fashion show. I mean a show is great, but is it really helping the designer? We wanted to do more. This department was really supposed to help the designers connect with boutiques, create a cohesive collection, and make the most out of showing with Harlem’s Fashion Row. It was in 2010 that we changed the format to a fashion art exhibition and presented at the Studio Museum of New York.
The entire time I worked on HFR, I also held a full time job. Last year, I quit my job of six years as a Production Manager for International Intimates, Inc. It was one of the easiest and hardest things I’ve ever done. Finally, I had reached a consistent salary I was happy about. I traveled the world with the job, but I knew I had to let it all go. Something in me knew that if I didn’t quit that job when I did, I would never know the potential of Harlem’s Fashion Row. So, I quit with not a lot of savings, but with a lot of faith that HFR would thrive.
In 2011, the HFR team went all in. Ideas that have been brewing for years finally came to life this year including a Fashion Luncheon, a “Conversations” series, and the Designer Incubator program. When looking for a venue for the 2011 show, I was challenged. I couldn’t find one venue in Harlem that had the space we needed on the date we needed it. It was so frustrating and finally I thought about looking in different areas of the city. Like before, I visited Jazz at Lincoln Center and knew that this venue would be the place. However, what I didn’t know was how we would pull off such a feat. This venue was huge, expensive, and out of our reach. It would require major faith and support. Thankfully, we have both and on September 16, 2011 we showed the collections of four designers of color. Target was our major sponsor for the pre-event where we honored Tyson Beckford, Donna Williams, and June Ambrose. It’s truly amazing what can happen with a dream, passion, and unwavering faith. It was a miracle. It was spectacular!
This journey is challenging, but it’s so rewarding. Today, I walked by Columbus Circle looked up and saw the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center. I almost had to pinch myself to believe that I had HFR 2011 in that venue. My biggest blessings have come when I’ve taken the biggest leap of faith and so I’m constantly leaping, having faith that God will provide a soft landing for me.
HFR is looking forward to expanding to more cities, continuing our conversations series, growing our designer incubator program, and providing our communities with cool fashion shows, exhibitions, seminars and content that will inspire, encourage, and inform.
-words by Rashida Maples, Esq.
The movement continues….
Brandice N. Henderson CEO/Founder – Harlem’s Fashion Row
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