To celebrate Black History Month and beyond, Nordstrom has partnered with leading industry mavens to push brands that amplify Black representation.

On February 11, the retailer launched Concept 012: Black_Space, a devoted shop handpicked by a selected group of Black creatives. “It has been an exciting journey to see our five curators, with different backgrounds from Los Angeles to Paris, introduce their creative thinking and storytelling,” Sam Lobban, SVP of Designer and New Concepts at Nordstrom tells ESSENCE. “At Nordstrom, we have long believed that we’re made better by the diversity within our communities, and our team has always tried to surround ourselves with a diverse group of creative.”

Curators include: Designer Beth Birkett, Creative Director Harris Elliott, Stylist Matthew Henson, Stylist Marcus Paul and Fashion Editor Azza Yousif. Nordstrom also tapped a Black-owned creative agency, Coral Studios, spearheaded by Ismaila Traoré to consult on the project. “My mother appreciated department stores, so to be able to have anyone who looks like me see the products at a grand stage like this feel inspired and well-represented,” says Traoré. “Black is beautiful” isn’t just a saying it’s a way of life.”

As a unit, Nordstrom and the selected industry participants have committed to pushing brands that speak to Black customers to the forefront. Cementing that celebrating fashion and beauty derived from communities of color only help the equality spectrum across retail. “Nordstrom, we have long believed that we’re made better by the diversity within our communities,” Lobban exclaimed. “Within the next four years at Nordstrom we aim to deliver $500 million in retail sales from brands owned or designed by diverse creatives.” By 2025 Nordstrom has committed millions in retail sales from brands owned by, operated by or designed by Black or Latinx curators.

ESSENCE spoke to two of the insiders selected Matthew Henson and creative director Harris Elliott to speak on the progressive initiative.

Matthew Henson

“One of the most important ways to hold organizations and retailers accountable and responsible is addressing the more indelible aspects of this type of partnership. Supporting or buying from a designer for one or two seasons, doesn’t help anyone. If you truly believe in diversity, then these designers who are finally being recognized, would then be incorporated indefinitely into the stores buy for seasons to come.”

“There are so many exceptionally talented designers and brands who deserve the same opportunities, support, and recognition that other brands easily garner. We’re always told that we have to work ten-times harder to get one-tenth of what is due, and that sentiment is paramount for emerging talent.”

Harris Elliott

“When a store of Nordstrom’s stature and respected positioning within the international fashion retail landscape makes a cultural stance and statement like Black_Space, it sends tidal waves across the retail globe. Collaborating with this level of transparency and creative authenticity means I can be unashamedly Black and not have to make concessions for those in the corporate rooms who still see Blackness as a stereotype or one dimensional cultural marketing tool.”

“I believe in promoting great talent period, so often Black brands are pigeonholed and/or sidelined because the context of Black culture does not have a common point of reference. Therefore it often does not garner equal column inches or status within mainstream media platforms outside of trending articles.”

Launching February 11, Concept 012: Black_Space is open through the end of April exclusively at 12 Nordstrom stores and on Nordstrom.com.