UPS, IMG Launch Fund to Help HBCU Designers Debut at New York Fashion Week

UPS might not have been first to mind to support emerging designers destined for fashion week, but the shipping and logistics company is committed to giving small businesses with diverse leadership a chance to realize their visions.

Now, a newly launched partnership with IMG, called NYFW: The Shows Small Business Grant Supported by UPS, will provide funding for three designers from historically black colleges and universities to produce a fashion show at NYFW this September. The $150,000 grant will be shared across the three awardees ($50,000 for each designer).

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“UPS is committed to fueling diverse-owned small businesses with the funding and resources they need to be successful, and this program is designed to give Black creators a platform to grow their businesses,” Kevin Warren, UPS executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told WWD. “HBCUs are an institution for cultivating Black excellence and Black culture. They build communities, foster creativity and develop the next generation of entrepreneurs. The goal of the program is to strengthen the pipeline of Black creatives coming out of HBCUs and support them in finding success.”

Applicants will be asked to submit their designs to a committee of industry experts including Warren, as well as Ali Bird, senior vice president of global talent strategy and incubation at talent agency WME Fashion; Anthony Demetrius, director of programming and designer partnerships for IMG Fashion Events & Properties, and Kahlana Barfield Brown, fashion and beauty editor and influencer. The committee will also serve as mentors to the awarded designers as they bring their fashion week shows to fruition.

For Barfield Brown, herself an HBCU graduate having attended Howard University, serving on the grant committee is an honor, she said. And she knows what she’s looking for in a candidate.

“I am committed to uplift and champion HBCU students in the realm of fashion. The voices and talents of Black designers remain vastly underrepresented in the fashion industry and I aspire to be a catalyst of change,” she told WWD. “I’m looking for someone with a really strong point of view of what they’re trying to say in the world of fashion, with a commitment to precision and detail.”

This new grant is an extension of UPS’ Proudly Unstoppable campaign to support Black-owned small businesses and its Be Unstoppable gear, the sales of which go toward shoring up the same effort. But it’s not the first time UPS was involved in supporting fashion designers. Last September the company highlighted Latine designers through a limited-edition capsule collection with Angelo Baque, founder of clothing label Awake New York and former brand director for Supreme. And it was during the February shows at NYFW that UPS dropped its very first Be Unstoppable apparel collection, as well as partnered with nonprofit In the Blk to support emerging Black fashion designers.

“Major fashion houses start out as small businesses,” Warren said. “By helping these entrepreneurs and designers make their mark on a global stage, we are empowering them with the access and visibility they need to grow their brands. UPS knows that small businesses are cultural elevators and the backbone of the fashion industry, so we look forward to celebrating them!”

Applications for the NYFW: The Shows Small Business Grant Supported by UPS are open now through June 5 at

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