My Personal Experience as a Black Luxury Sales Associate 

As the world is changing right in front of our eyes. The Black Lives Matter Movement has been the most powerful. People all over the world are now starting to see black lives in a different lens. The movement has had an effect on every aspect. Fashion is one of them, over the years the fashion industry has discriminated against people of color. Our voices have never been fully heard. We as a community in this cut-throat industry have faced cultural appropriation, blackface inspired clothing, and lack of credit for our creativity. At a young age, I have always been interested in fashion. 

 

I knew I wanted to gain a career in this field. But I wondered If that was possible because of my skin color. As I got older my desire to work in this industry became stronger. I had faith in myself that I was one day going to work in luxury stores. The products, craftsmanship, and notoriety have always intrigued me. At 23 my resume includes Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and most currently Ralph Lauren. All from the same mall in Short Hills, New Jersey. One of the biggest luxury malls in my state. I was afraid I would face discrimination in the workplace. Either from coworkers or clients.  I am glad to stay. I was wrong. My experience at all stores has been amazing. I learned so much from these companies. As a collective, the diversity was there. African- American, Hispanic, and Asain. Are the top communities running luxury stores at Short Hills Mall? 

 

Prior to the pandemic, I was working as a sales professional at Ralph Lauren. Upon my training, it was mandatory to become educated about inclusion and diversity. Out of my experience, Ralph Lauren is the only company to ensure employees have a safe work environment. Regarding discrimination. Even though I have been furloughed. The company made sure to conduct a panel of discussions about racial injustice. My general manager is an  African-American woman. It is nice to know we have a voice that can properly represent us. She has reached out to my co-workers and I. To make sure we have the support we need during this difficult time. I appreciate their genuine concern for us. It shows there is room for African-Americans in fashion. 

 

Luxury brands have promised to hire more people of color to work for corporate and retail positions. Their demographic numbers for black people working in their companies have been relatively low. Part of me is surprised, part of me is not. In all of my experience,  my general managers have all been minorities. It was exciting to see people of color in power. They treated me with so much love and respect.  I wish people that look like me, can have a similar experience in luxury retail. Without brands posting on Instagram their new promise. I feel as if  now we are left with the conflict of “Are they hiring me because of my experience?” or “Are they hiring me to make their company look better?” I am looking forward to seeing how this movement affects the black community in fashion, a year from now.  

 

 

Sarah Fonatanges

@_SarahFontanges