Just over a year ago, Bob Bland, the New York-based designer and founder of the fashion
"The Women's March has been the startup of a lifetime," says Bland, who soon after posting that fateful day in November teamed up with co-founders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Lindsa Sarsour to launch the non-profit organization in late 2016. Although many thought that the Women's March would be gone and forgotten over the course of Trump's presidency, Bland insists it has only gained steam since last January.
In fact, early research suggests that the events of 2018--a veritable
Lessons in ethical business
Bland identifies first and foremost as an entrepreneur, and rather than detracting from her business acumen, she says that participating in the Women's March has made her a more effective leader. "I've spent the last year training myself through this work to look at my industry [fashion] through a gender as well as a racial lens," Bland tells Inc. "Now, I clearly see that we cannot separate work around systemic dysfunction in the fashion industry, for example, from issues like white supremacy and mistreatment of women."
Bland says that Manufacture New York--which occupies more than 160,000 square feet in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood and has helped to launch more than 90 brands since inception in 2012--has taken the back seat since the Women's March went viral last year. However, she is making a more concerted effort to bring more women and people of color into the business of fashion, such that her leadership better reflects the customer base: In the coming months, she plans on launching a philanthropic arm called the Manufacture Foundation, to support more women and minorities in the manufacturing industry.
In the meantime, her incubator has pivoted to support more textiles "of the resistance," from makers of 'Nasty Woman' t-shirts to 'RESIST' sweat pants (with some proceeds of the latter going to the American Civil Liberties Union.) Bland now partners with designers such as The Outrage, The Amplifier and Royal Apparel, including men and women who identify as gay, straight, bisexual, queer, black, white, brown, and everything in-between.
It's no small task--especially as Bland continues to work with the Women's March full time, shepherding 35 state coordinators and some 5,500 micro-communities across the country. But it's work that she has found to be more than gratifying, and which has challenged her views about what may or may not be 'normal' in the business of fashion.
"As a white woman, this has allowed me to reflect both on the extreme misogyny and sexism I experienced at the hands of venture capitalists and real estate developers," she adds, referring to the early days of building her business. "It's powerful actually being able to name that, where I felt completely silenced before."