Harlem’s Fashion Row Summit: Jen Jackson Brown
Jen Jackson Brown, president and executive vice president of Nordstrom Product Group, recently joined the Black History Month Summit hosted by Harlem's Fashion Row for a conversation with Kethlyn White of Your Friends in New York. See highlights from their conversation as they discuss brand partnerships and collaborations with our Nordstrom Product Group.
Nordstrom has set diversity inclusion and belonging goals—can you give context around those goals and how your team has worked towards those commitments?
As a company, we're thinking about diversity across all areas of the business—encompassed across all the different facets of our business. There are four key areas we continue to make progress in and set goals for which include talent, culture, leadership, and marketplace.
One of the most important areas is within our internal pool of talent and ensuring we are representing the communities we serve. The culture we create within Nordstrom is imperative in fostering an environment where people can bring their whole and best selves to work. And how we lead is important as we think about all those areas of focus. Lastly, our marketplace goals go hand in hand with our merchandising efforts. We want to make sure when we're thinking about the brands and products we carry that we keep different customers in mind. We've made strides towards merchandising goals and have committed to delivering $500 in retail sales from brands owned by, operated by, or designed by Black and/or Latinx individuals by the end of 2025. We also signed the 15% pledge, so we have a clear path forward.
How do you think about bringing diverse perspectives into the design process for your private label brands?
It all starts with our customers. We get inspired by our customers and we co-create with them and our design team. We thought about merchandising and design with our customers in mind and we saw we had an opportunity to design more to represent all sizes, genders, and backgrounds. We get to create whatever we want based on what our customers want—that is freeing for our teams.
We also want to partner with people that are already subject experts and can teach us some things. It inspires our teams and creates a sense of deeper meaning in their work. So, it is not just about serving our customers, but also creating meaning for our employees. One of our partners includes a contemporary artist Cristina Martinez. She is from the Northwest, so she already had that connection. She came to the table with her incredible art which tells untold stories about people. We fell in love with her art and knew it would be a great match.
How do artists and brands partner with Nordstrom?
With Cristina Martinez in particular, she came to us with her art, and our team produced a creative concept. Our design team thought about a creative concept and the types of silhouettes that would best tailor to her art. So, that is how the two teams come together. Our team was dedicated to bringing her ideas to life, and it meant a lot to them. The range of products includes women's, men's, kids, and home products. Our goal with the collection was to bring her art to life and celebrate her heritage.
How can designers get in front of Nordstrom to get involved in this process?
A great example—which may be helpful when considering if this is a good partnership for them—is our partnership with Henna & Hijabs. A store manager reached out about a woman who wanted to contact our team. She is part of the Muslim community, is doing wonderful things in healthcare and wanted to get into fashion. We got on a call, and she pitched the idea of Nordstrom making Hijabs. We had never been in that business, so our team quickly researched how to make this product. The next thing we knew, we were collaborating on this collection with her brand called Henna & Hijabs. Customers have responded so well to the collection—it's everything from heavy to lightweight for every season. So in this case, she came to us with great ideas and helped support the creative process.
Another great example is our in-house brand collaboration with WILDFANG called BP. + Wildfang. We partnered with Emma Mcilroy, CEO and co-founder of WILDFANG, to create a gender-inclusive collection that delivers on the needs of our customers. Nordstrom and WILDFANG both share in their commitments to the customer through service, quality products and a personalized shopping experience. Extending those values through this partnership, while identifying new ways to break through existing industry standards, BP. + WILDFANG has created an immersive collaboration that spans product, community engagement and employee education.
This was a true collaboration in the sense that we learned a lot from Emma and her team. In addition to the collaboration, 10% of total sales from the BP. + Wildfang collection will go to Year Up supporting workforce development for Black, LatinX and Queer communities.
We listen to our customers first and foremost, and if there is a partnership or collaboration that feels like a good match, then we do that. We nurture the partnership with our talent combined with what they bring to the table. We will continue to do more of that.
What are you looking forward to seeing this year?
We can't give away too many secrets, but we are continuing to explore new partnerships. We have new Cristina Martinez and Henna & Hijabs drops to look forward to. We're also excited to share the evolution of each of our brands and the experiential customer experiences in-stores. We're continuing to the work on the path forward to reach $500 million in retail sales. We look forward to partnering with new brands.