Last night, in a room filled with the likes of LeBron James, Dapper Dan, and many other worldly celebrities, Brandice Henderson-Daniel‘s presence was of the greatest importance. The founder of Harlem Fashion Row, a social company built to lend a voice to multicultural designers and women of color, was at the height of her powers since moving to New York City from Memphis in 2005 to pursue a career in fashion.
Daniel, unsure of where she’d land in the fashion industry upon venturing to New York, quickly found her footing and put on her first fashion show in Harlem, in August 2007. She’d found designers and models in the blackest part of the city, where African-American excellence has long been felt and historically upheld. Harlem soon thereafter began to hoist Daniel up, too, alongside the other black designers revolving around New York City at that time. But she quickly noticed a disparity in the numbers among her. Too few black women (and men) were working in fashion. Daniel took issue with that. Harlem Fashion Row later formed with a desire to resolve that institutional and well-known systemic problem.
LeBron James, whose legacy already looms among revolutionaries like Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Colin Kaepernick, looked to Daniel and her Harlem Fashion Row designers to help him launch his 16th signature shoe — the Nike LeBron 16. Daniel and her emphasis on empowering people of color — especially women — were aligned with James’ vision for the shoe and its subsequent launch, so she appointed three African-American women — Kimberly Goldson, Felisha Noel, and Undra Celeste Duncan — to reimagine the LeBron 16.
The Harlem Fashion Row x Nike LeBron 16 was officially revealed last night at Daniel’s annual gala and fashion show, which took place in downtown New York at Capitale. This collaborative project with Nike is more than just a win for Daniel; it represents the full realization of what was once a bluesy Memphis dream and is now a New York institution. It’s providing minority designers and women of color with greater exposure, opportunities, and allowing the impact of their work to resonate outside the black community.
Daniel and James combining their platforms may be the only way this happens. Collaboration is both necessary and critical for African-Americans to thrive in fashion, design, and the corporate structures for which we are often excluded or only seen in grossly underrepresented numbers.
“As someone who has a platform, because of what I do, I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are under-recognized,” James reinforced via Nike. “Being the son, husband and father of strong African-American women, I felt like this was something I wanted to do for them and for all the strong women out there who are succeeding despite what might be stacked against them.”
James’ latest signature basketball shoe will now rest in lore for what it represents off the court, much like the Akron-born icon himself. There’s a bigger game at play. One with a much shorter shot clock. One that will inspire and provide opportunities for those who deserve them. Daniel, through this partnership, is indeed at the height of her powers. James is, too. We all tend to be when working with our arms interlocked.
The HFR x Nike LeBron 16 releases on September 7 exclusively on Nike SNKRS in North America and on Nike.com.