Sephora has signed a pledge to dedicate 15 percent of its shelf space to black-owned brands, the New York Times reports. The “15 Percent Pledge,” as the initiative has been titled, was started by creative director and Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, who in May reached out to a handful of brands because black people “represent 15% of the population... we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.” Rent the Runway has also agreed to the pledge.
“Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves. It starts with a long-term plan diversifying our supply chain and building a system that creates a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow, while ensuring Black voices help shape our industry,” Sephora’s chief merchandising officer Artemis Patrick told NYT. “We recognize we can do better.” Sephora has also agreed to build out an “advisory group” with brands owned by people of color—not explicitly black people—to ensure they adhere to the 15 percent pledge. James will sit on the board, and she better get compensated handsomely for it.
James also reached out to bigger brands, like Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Saks Fifth Avenue, who’ve yet to respond. That’s disappointing, but in another way, so is Sephora and Rent the Runway’s long overdue commitment. James reached out to those brands on May 31, which means both brands agreed to the 15 percent pledge in less than two weeks—Rent the Runway even agreed to allocate an additional $1 million to support black designers. Why hadn’t this been done before? Surely others have approached leaders of the aforementioned brands with something similar? Hell, Target even ran a commercial highlighting Honey Pot, a black-owned business that sells menstrual hygiene products, earlier this year. If they’re vocal in their advertisements, certainly someone in their corporate offices has told them about the importance of supporting black-owned businesses. I struggle to applaud Sephora or Rent the Runway—they are simply doing now what they should have been doing for years. For others, the clock is ticking.