What to Watch: Royal, Political Influencers Spark Criticism, Affect Fashion With Photo-ops

Like them, love them or despise them, political and royal influencers churn up the Internet nearly instantaneously with every public outing.
Whether stepping out for a diplomatic gala dinner, a schoolyard visit with wide-eyed students or for a hardhat-worthy ribbon cutting ceremony, the powers-that-be dress accordingly, knowing their choices will send sales skyrocketing. Their personal fashion loyalties vary — Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel favors pantsuits, beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May prefers skirt suits, France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron is all about Louis Vuitton and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump is nonpartisan in terms of designers.
As a sign of their global reach, the newly minted Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, topped Google’s 10 most-searched people list last year. For her first official tour, with Prince Harry last fall, to Australia, the American-born royal packed plenty of options for the 16-day trip. Occasionally changing twice in one day, the former “Suits” actress wore an assortment of Australian labels, as well as Brandon Maxwell, Jason Wu, Roksanda Ilincic, Stuart Weitzman, Manolo Blahnik, Gucci and Birks.
Before last spring’s royal wedding, it was estimated that the net present value to brands that Markle wears was 150 million pounds, or $ 212.1 million, according to David Haigh,

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The Lawyer Helping Social Influencers Protect their Passion and Profits

Although social influencers and content creators are a fairly new phenomenon, their ability to inspire an audience to take action makes them highly sought after by small businesses, mega-brands, and even Hollywood film studios. But creators should take note, with a growing demand for influencers, comes an increasing need to protect your inventions; images, as well as literary and artistic works. Thankfully, there are intellectual property attorneys like Shay M. Lawson. As an intellectual property attorney, diversity expert, and founder of the Advocate Law Group PC, she’s fiercely committed to protecting a person’s passion and profits through copyright, trademarks, and contracts. “The biggest mistake I see creatives making is assuming they’re ‘too small’ to be stolen from or copied,” says Lawson. Spend the few dollars on a copyright now so you can enforce your rights against thieves who will be sorry later.”

Unlike a traditional entertainment attorney focused on television, film, music, theater, and publishing, Lawson adds social media to her area of specialization. “I’m not your run of the mill entertainment attorney because what it means to be an entertainer and how that person generates revenue is always changing,” she says. “A single client who is a multi-platinum music producer could also be a YouTube sensation from making videos of his beats, or a style influencer for how she wears her hair. Understanding how all that needs to be legally protected is going to be completely different than any other type of trademark or contract lawyers are doing. I’m probably only a handful of lawyers that can tell you how much you should negotiate for a Tweet versus an Instagram post versus a Snap story versus a YouTube video, and put you in the best position to maintain ownership of the content you create when partnering with a brand for sponsored content. I can only do that because I am a part of the culture. I grew up with the creation of each of these platforms. So as unique as my client’s needs are, I am also uniquely informed on how to best protect them from a legal standpoint.”

From Lawson’s Instagram account

Coupled with Lawson’s passion for protecting intellectual property, is her commitment to advocating for social change. “I love the overwhelming unity among women in the entertainment industry in being a voice for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, especially among women of color,” she says. What I want to see in my industry, though, is accountability and real lasting change not damage controlled reactionary change for optics. My passion for this change has been channeled into an unexpected opportunity to work with Kitti Jones as a client. Kitti is a dynamic spirit that has leveraged her dark experience with domestic violence at the hands of a major music celebrity, to now be an author and the face of a national PSA campaign to spread awareness and resources to victims.”

Lawson also sits on the board of the Lee Thompson Young Foundation that provides mental health resources to students in Atlanta-area public schools. She’s a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where she chairs social action around issues such as voting during midterm elections. Plus she sits on the board of the Recording Academy, Atlanta Chapter as a Governor and co-chair of Advocacy where she has spent the past two years lobbying members of Congress on behalf of music creators to pass the Music Modernization Act.

Lawson’s dedication to the field speaks volumes about the power of representation. “I was inspired to go to law school by a group of environmental attorneys that came to my high school, she said. The attorneys shared their work on behalf of African communities being taken advantage of by American oil companies and corrupt governments. I actually focused my undergraduate thesis at Hampton University on Nigerian political theory and my graduate research on war crimes and international humanitarian law for the International War Crimes Tribune. So helping others and helping communities has always been on my mind. This translated into working in diversity and inclusion once I started my professional career. Any part I can play in empowering organizations to be the best and most inclusive version of themselves is a service to everyone and a cause I will always take up meaningfully.”

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Ralph Lauren Taps Emmy Rossum, Cameron Dallas, Influencers for Holiday

Ralph Lauren teamed up with a host of influencers for its latest holiday shopping campaign, tapping Emmy Rossum, Cameron Dallas, Iman, Taylor Hill, Olivia Palermo, Johannes Huebl the Shibutani siblings Alex and Maia to curated their own holiday shopping lists. The campaign then kicked off at the brand’s Beverly Hills flagship with a party Thursday night hosted by Rachel Zoe and Nate Berkus. Other guests included Kelly Sawyer, Elizabeth Chambers, Caroline Vreeland, Candice Nelson and David Lauren.
“They asked me to host along with Nate and to work on a gift guide for them, which of course was not hard at all since we are such a Ralph family and always have been,” said Zoe of the campaign, which she shot in Central Park. “It’s fun to help people navigate shopping. Men are the most challenging to buy for because they are so particular about what they want or don’t want but a guy is always happy to see a Ralph Lauren shopping bag. You can’t go wrong with a big Navajo cardigan or a shearling bomber. Or a holiday scented candle.”
Said Berkus, “I always appreciate giving and receiving things of quality that won’t go out of style,

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Italy’s Antitrust Targets Alberta Ferretti, Alitalia and Influencers

FLYING PROBE: Italy’s antitrust watchdog has begun a probe to determine whether Alitalia and luxury goods group Aeffe have possibly engaged in surreptitious advertising through social media.
The antitrust authority has launched a preliminary investigation of Italy’s largest airline company and of Aeffe, in a link to its co-owner Alberta Ferretti. It is also investigating a number of influencers, including Chiara Ferragni, who posted on Instagram images of themselves wearing Alberta Ferretti designs embellished with the Alitalia logo.
On Tuesday, Aeffe executive chairman Massimo Ferretti, brother of the designer, had no comment on the issue.
In June, Ferretti unveiled the new uniforms she designed for employees of Alitalia, as well as a see-now-buy-now capsule collection. The latter was presented at the brand’s resort 2019 and “Limited Edition” midi couture fall collection runway show that month.
The new uniforms replaced this summer those designed by Italian haute couturier Ettore Bilotta, which Alitalia introduced in 2016.
The capsule was immediately available at the brand’s stores and e-commerce, as well as at selected retailers including LuisaViaRoma, Rinascente, Farfetch, Barneys and Forward by Elyse Walker, and consisted of a sweatshirt, a T-shirt and a sweater embellished with the Alitalia logo.

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Influencers Help Change the World’s View of Haiti

Wanda Tima didn’t feel proud of her Haitian heritage as a child. “I grew up always hearing nothing but bad things about Haiti,” she told Black Enterprise. Born to Haitian parents in Turks and Caicos, the 35-year-old entrepreneur moved to a community in South Florida in the early 90’s where Haitians were stigmatized. “Kids were being told that Haitians eat cats and all Haitians have AIDs,” she said. In addition to the taunts and scorn, Haitian students were subjected to physical bullying and violence. “I watched Haitians get beat up on the school bus and there would be a lot of gang-related fights all the time with Haitians versus Jamaicans [and] Haitians versus everybody [else]. It was so uncool to be Haitian.”

Finding Her Roots

Wanda Tima

Wanda Tima, founder of L’union Suite (Instagram)

It took years before Tima fully embraced her lineage, which was triggered when she had an identity crisis as a young adult. At the time, she felt disconnected from her Haitian peers and detached from the culture at large. “You have a generation of kids, like myself, [who] were only Haitian by name,” she said. “My mom wasn’t speaking Creole to us at home and we weren’t listening to Haitian music. There wasn’t any Haitian culture in my house.” As a result, “I never really understood where I fit in.”

It wasn’t until she graduated from Bethune-Cookman University, an HBCU in Daytona, Florida, that she realized she couldn’t plan for her future without first connecting with her roots.

“There was a missing piece that I didn’t have any information on,” she said. “I was going through a phase of trying to learn more about Haiti and the culture.”

Her parents, however, discouraged her from exploring her ethnic background or visiting Haiti, so she started researching the country on the web, which led her down a rabbit hole of depressing news. Rather than becoming discouraged, Tima became determined to change the narrative. In 2011, she created L’union Suite, a digital platform that highlights positive news about Haiti and Haitians around the diaspora. Today, it’s one of the most popular websites for Haitian-American lifestyle, tourism, culture, and entertainment news, reaching tens of thousands of readers on a monthly basis, plus millions more on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Hait

Karen Civil and Wanda Tima circa 2017

To further empower people of Haitian descent, Tima launched a business directory called Haitian Professionals in 2015, that helps entrepreneurs gain business and exposure. In addition, she works closely with Karen Civil, a Haitian-American influencer and marketing strategist, to hosts charity events and raise money to support different projects in Haiti like a computer lab in a school in Cap-Haitian, Haiti’s second largest city.

The Beauty of Haiti

Haiti

Steph Lecor with students from the Institut Sacré-Coeur du Cap-Haïtien (Photo credit: Rosslin Mozart Louis)

In October, Tima celebrated the seven-year anniversary of L’union Suite by inviting a group of U.S.-based millennial women entrepreneurs, artists, influencers, and members of the press to Cap-Haitien. The goal was to expose the world to the beauty that lies beyond the protests, violence, and natural disasters that are frequently reported through American news outlets. Despite the negative depictions of the nation, “Haiti is no different than most other Caribbean countries,” said Tima. “Yes, there’s poverty; yes, there’s a lot of help that’s needed; yes, the government has a lot of issues; but, at the same time…there are beautiful parts of the country.”

During the trip, the influencers — which included singer Dawn Richards; BET correspondent Amanda BoozMecca Moore, the owner and publisher of THINK PYNK and PYNK Branded LLC; singer and reality TV star Azia Toussaint; recording artist Steph Lecor; actress and entrepreneur Shelah Marie RhoulhacSandy Pierre, a marketing specialist at Hearst Integrated Media; and this reporter — shared their experiences with their massive collection of Instagram followers. The four-day trip included a visit to a local school and a tour of the Sans-Souci Palace, an ancient royal ruin built in 1813, that was named after Jean-Baptiste Sans Souci, an African-born slave who helped lead the Haitian Revolution. The women also spent a day on Amiga Island, a stunning beach destination in Labadee, where local fishermen caught and grilled red snapper, crabs, and a Creole conch dish known as lambi. They also dined at popular Haitian restaurants like Lakay and Lolo and stayed at the luxurious Satama Hotel, which sits at the top of a mountain overlooking Northern Haiti.

Haiti

The Sans-Souci Palace in the town of Milot (Photo credit: Rosslin Mozart Louis courtesy of L’union Suite)

Richard, an independent recording artist formerly signed to Bad Boy Records, was in the middle of a tour with her singing group, Danity Kane, when she received Tima’s invite to travel to Haiti. Honored by the invitation, the New Orleans native immediately cleared her schedule. “I am overwhelmed and very grateful that I had the opportunity to see my roots first hand,” the Haitian American singer told BE. “Not only am I able to see Haiti through my own eyes…but I get to do it with other women who look like me.”

Likewise, Lecor, who is signed to DJ Khaled’s We The Best Music Group, was delighted to return to Haiti. “I used to come every summer up until I was 12 years old,” said the first-generation Haitian-American singer. “Those were the best summers of my life.” She continued, “When Wanda called me two days before the trip, I jumped on the opportunity to be here,” she said, adding, “as soon as I got here…it felt like home.”

While appreciative of Haiti’s allure, Lecor is not remiss of what many people think of Haiti, like President Donald Trump who notoriously described it as an “s–thole” country. “The perception is that Haiti is unsafe, dirty, and dangerous,” she said, admitting that it’s hard to drive through the impoverished neighborhoods. As a result, the landscape, culture, and people are overlooked.

Haiti

Amiga Island in Labadee, Haiti (Photo credit: Rosslin Mozart Louis courtesy of L’union Suite)

Toussaint, a star on BET’s “Hustle in Brooklyn,” had dreamed of visiting Haiti, the country where her father was born, as a little girl. However, she said seeing the poverty and devastation juxtaposed to the scenic landscape was “bittersweet.” “Even [though] the places have gone through so much destruction and hardship, it’s [still] a beautiful place,” she said. She added that Haitians have not lost the grit needed to survive. “I saw a bunch of people who still had pride, still had hope, and the strength, courage, and the willingness to move forward.”

influencers

Mecca Moore, Sandy Pierre, Amanda Booz, Selena Hill, Shelah Rhoulhac, Wanda Tima, Steph Lecor, Azia Toussaint, and Dawn Richards at the Sans-Souci Palace (Photo credit: Rosslin Mozart Louis courtesy of L’union Suite)

After returning to her home in Sunrise, Florida, Tima said the trip was “beyond successful.” In addition to a great experience, the women networked and connected with each other as well as with locals all while shining a positive light on Haiti through social platforms. L’union Suite’s “social media impressions during the trip were record-breaking,” said Tima, “and now more and more people know about the work we are doing in Haiti and want to not only vacation [here] but [also] assist in giving back at the school.”

Furthermore, the trip reaffirmed Tima’s commitment to uplift Haiti and spotlight its beauty and strength. “I come from a lineage of people who are leaders and unapologetically strong. I am the daughter of the first Black republic. We are such truly a group of resilient people,” she said. “The more I learn about my history and our contributions to the world, the more I fall in love with who I am.”

 


Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Nov. 6, 2018.

 

 

 

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