George Sully Launches the First-Ever Comprehensive Index of Canadian Black Designers!
Renowned shoe designer, George Sully launched a brand-new platform called Black Designers of Canada (BDoC). It is the first-ever interactive index of Canadian black designers that emerged during the COVID-19 Pandemic and general unrest due to the systematic racism black people face throughout the world.
By Serena Velarde
Below, Sully discusses his inspiration for launching BDoC, the Black Lives Matter movement, and his views on digital fashion weeks across the world.
For better reader clarity, the interview is lightly edited.
What made you decide to create the first-ever interactive index for black Canadian designers?
The reason is pretty simple: the black community has been marginalized when it comes to fashion and our contribution. I wanted to create a platform to make sure that people see us. So, if there are any excuses that have been used in the past for not seeing black designers, there’s no excuse now, because you can come to a site where there are 150 of them.
Throughout the world the Black Lives Matter movement has been mobilizing, especially with protests in different cities across the United States; what’s your message to people that are fighting this fight but are getting tired.
I would say push on even though it’s a grueling race, especially because of the situation that we are in again with George Floyd. It’s so funny because there is George Floyd and then there’s something so insignificant that happened with “Central Park Karen” and the black birdwatcher. As asinine as that was, and then finding out she’s Canadian, we are realizing that were going to have to actually talk about prejudice, stereotypes, and racism. Because Amy Cooper, I’ll say her real name, she is one of us. She’s my neighbor. There is Amy Cooper’s everywhere. It is tiring, but things are changing. When we get tired, we just keep on going because every crack will eventually show light.
Have you thought about expanding the index for black designers globally or in the United States?
We have a few plans, but I don’t want to say anything up-front because what we want to do right now is focus on the building index. Are we thinking outside of the box? Of course. Are we thinking about workshops? Yes. We are thinking about all these really cool things that black designers of Canada can mobilize and do. If you are protesting in front of the world saying you want to help, you want to invest, and you want to buy, then here’s a great place to start. Telling a story is not cheap, and if you go onto our Go Fund Me page, you’ll see types of videos that we put out to express ourselves.
What tips would you give to young black designers that want to break out into the fashion industry?
I’m not going to lie; they’re not looking for you. So, for somebody that understands that, you have to self-mobilize and try to have a few more trades. Make sure that you are well equipped with skills such as making your own website, or making your own look book, or your own video montage, etc. If you come to any one of those points without the skills, you’re going to have to ask for help. And when you ask for help, that magic resource center is not there.
Major fashion weeks are turning digital because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. What are your thoughts on that?
As a designer, I know myself, I’d rather be home, dealing with buyers and having meetings instead of having a runway and not knowing if the people in the front row are really writing down orders. Now, if I’m reaching out to you, I’m hoping that you’re going to take a very significant order because it can’t be one or two pieces at a time. So instead of the front rows, I think this way kind of gets to the business of it. I’ve been an entrepreneur for the whole time through, and I know what’s important. Runway shows are important and showing fashion is important. But when you were never invited to the house in the first place who fucking cares. I’m focusing on the fact that when my season comes out, I have a lineup of things that I’m going to present to people that want to take my business.
George Sully, platform: Black Designers of Canada (BDoC), the first-ever comprehensive index of Canadian black designers is now live.
“The last thing i thought is that I’d be making history by doing something that’s such a no brainer. An index of Canadian Black Designers
should have never been such a far fetched idea in the first place”. ~ George Sully
In Canada we are blessed to have an abundance of incredible black talent. Whether it’s in fashion, entertainment, hospitality, food, etc. — the options are endless. However, due to the recent events in North America, we are having to face the stark reality of systemic racism, and the limitations it places on black people. Unfortunately, black designers are often omitted, ignored, and put into the “other” pile without an explanation or real reason. With this in mind, and experiencing it first hand for himself, George Sully has decided to create a platform where black designers in Canada can be featured and celebrated.
George Sully is a well-known name in the Canadian fashion world. You may know him as the co-founder of Sully Wong, House of Hayla, private label work, international and local collaborations, or as of late, maker of the Starfleet Boot for CBS’s flagship juggernaut STAR TREK Discovery. He is also a mentor to the students of Central Toronto Academy and their 6ixess program. He has been inducted into the Bata Shoe Museum twice. He is a leading force in an ever-changing business landscape. He is also a black man.
With many years of successes, George has also experienced more than his share of systemic prejudices entrenched in the fashion community he has served well, due to the colour of his skin. Now, he’s creating another incredible project. One that aims to bring BDoC to the forefront of the fashion industry in Canada.
Last week, George put out a call-to-action on his social platforms, asking people to submit their favourite black designers in all areas of the discipline. The goal of BDoC is to make it next to impossible for the industry to make excuses rooted in ignorance to justify exclusion.
“I wanted to create a platform where we can be found,” says George Sully, “in the likely case you didn’t know we ever existed in the first place”.
You can submit yourself or your favourite black designers at blackdesignersofcanada.com or through the official IG page @blackdesignersofcanada immediately.
About Black Designers of Canada
Black Designers of Canada (BDoC) is the first-ever interactive index of Canadian black designers in all areas of the discipline. It is a platform aiming to give a voice to black designers in the community and eliminate the excuse of exclusion. Show some love and follow on Instagram @blackdesignersofcanada or submit nominations online at blackdesignersofcanada.com