ABC7 Unite: Designer from Brooklyn reversing fashion industry diversity trends

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn (WABC) -- New York's recent Fashion Week was unlike any other. Much of it was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, and during the shows, emerging designers took center stage.

According to WWD, a site devoted to fashion, beauty and business, the decision to feature newcomers was deliberate because of the current lack of diversity in the fashion industry.

It's odd that a business known for taking risks when it comes to style lags behind in terms of diversity, but it does. Black-owned fashion companies account for just 1.3% of all sales, making the work of Edvin Thompson even more important.

Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn is a world away from Manhattan's Seventh Avenue -- known as Fashion Avenue in the Garment District -- but it's also the future.

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For an industry struggling to become more diverse, what's happening in Thompson's apartment is sign of changing times. And at his personal sewing machine, his new collection was taking shape.

"It's a celebration of life," he said. "It's a call for action. My clothes simply make people feel good."

Thompson was born in Jamaica and grew up in New Jersey.

"I really wanted to continue sustaining my cultural background, and my culture is very vibrant," he said. "So of course I wanted to bring that to the forefront with the colors in my collection."

Thompson found his calling at Plainfield High School.

"Me and my friends we were eager for something different," he said. "And we were excited that we were the different."

Today, a small group Thompson calls his" design family" helps him create his garments under the brand name Theophilio.

It's a Black-owned business and a beacon of hope in an industry where such companies represent a tiny fraction of all sales.

"A lot of people of color don't get the chance or even the space to really talk about our struggles and talk about our trials," he said.

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Industry experts like WWD Style Director Alex Badia are starting to pay attention.

"When you see that kind of fashion, you realize that there is a lot that is new out there that we haven't seen yet," Badia said, "And that is exactly what we need. We need new voices. We need new."

It's a need Thompson is determined to fulfill.

"Because the future has to be bright for us," he said.

He wants to be a bridge between cultures and throw a spotlight on all his community has to offer. Thompson hopes the fashion industry continues to embrace diversity going forward beyond this moment when inclusion has become so trendy.

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