The Big Change You'll Soon See In Sephora Stores

Influential fashion insider and founder of Brother Vellies, Aurora James, had a query. And to get answers, she became part of a non-profit charity now known as 15 Percent Pledge. Their proposition: If Black people in the U.S. make up nearly 15 percent of the population, why can't brands pledge 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses? To kick off their campaign, the group addressed four big American companies: Target, Sephora, Whole Foods, and Shopbop. "You asked how you can help. This is your opportunity to collectively put $14.5b back into Black communities," the group said in an Instagram post. 

To that end, Sephora has become the first company to answer the call of 15 Percent Pledge. They made the announcement to support the movement through Instagram, and then followed that up by outlining concrete measures to provide support for Black-owned businesses. These include giving aspiring founders access to Sephora's resources; providing connections to and support from potential funders; and supporting Black-owned businesses for long-term success. Sephora also promised to have its internal incubator set a primary focus on creating opportunities for women of color (via Refinery29). Sephora senior executive Artemis Patrick told Vogue in a statement, "Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves. It starts with a long-term plan diversifying our supply chain and building a system that creates a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow, while ensuring Black voices help shape our industry."

Sephora supports Aurora James and the 15 Percent Pledge

Sephora's announcement calls out the importance of James' work, her mission, and businesses' responsibility to take action. "We're joining @15percentpledge and @aurorajames. We recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better. So, we're starting now," the post read.

James is keen to come up with concrete solutions to bring Black-owned businesses into mainstream fashion, because she knows the pain of trying to keep a Black-owned business alive through trying times. "We were all in such a tough spot [during the pandemic], and the only financial support that I got was through A Common Thread—I couldn't get any business loans because I wasn't eligible for any of them, and I knew I wouldn't be," James tells Vogue. "Ninety-five percent of Black businesses aren't." 

The designer has another concrete objective, and that is how to bring change to the mainstream fashion industry. "There has been a lot of talk over the past however many months about retooling the fashion industry and what that might look like in terms of sustainability,"James tells Vogue. "But no one was really asking how people of color and Black people fit into these new business models in a really impactful way. People weren't putting metrics on that."

Given James' drive and determination, we can expect 15 Percent Pledge lead the conversation on how to create a more inclusive fashion industry.