Design Moonshine: Diversity in Design

We all need an editor. Success is garnered through partnerships that include similar and differing perspectives. We require diversity to excel. 

This installment of Design Moonshine is not about objects or processes. Today, we consider the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the Total Home & Gift wholesale community. Each of us owns the loss. We are accountable for whom we work to include.

I have taught at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), since Fall 2012. Sure, the first three years were a bit awkward. I was the crazy white man in the front of the room teaching composition, creative writing, and literature. 

Early on, a student asked me if I would own slaves had I lived in the American South in 1820.  The question was bold.  All the students looked at me with curiosity.  I said, “I guess I would have done what my father taught me.”  Not a single student in the class found fault in the answer.  They listen to and honor their parents, too.  At that point, I realized my time at TSU would be life-altering.  I am an artist with extended tradition, a poet with an extra splash of kindness and self-reflection, and a human who craves people around me with different backgrounds and points of view.  I have Texas Southern University to thank for this perspective.  The environment we inhabit is a change agent.  

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I have sold art and furniture in so many wholesale markets that I cannot count.  My first market was in the Summer of 2007.  In 2017, I managed eight markets.  That is a lot of setting up a space, selling, and taking it down.  Over the years and across the markets, I have noticed that our community is homogeneous.  Let us challenge ourselves and encourage diversity to walk the floors and showrooms at our major markets.  

Change tends to happen slowly and then all at once. Our industry is working on diversity inclusion; I suggest we hasten the pace. Let’s burn the box and design from the ashes. Let’s find inspiration that we cannot see without diverse perspectives. We are doing ourselves an injustice by not substantially including people from various races and ethnic backgrounds to help us take the industry we love to the next level.  

This article is a call for consideration and intention.  The Total Home & Gift Industry is about sharing magic, comfort, and style with all humans.  We don’t do this just for the money.  The work is hard and stressful.   The inclusion of perspectives and ethnicities will expand reach.  

See Also

Norman Wyatt, Jr. is a designer for StyleCraft.  I have been fortunate to watch Mr. Wyatt’s designs and lines develop over the last few years.  His StyleCraft line debuts in April High Point, 2024.  His process is inspired and meticulous.  I believe Norman’s line will be a universal success in the marketplace.  I salute Mr. Wyatt for his hard work and attention to detail.  StyleCraft is a company with vision and tenacity.

Norman Wyatt, Jr. poses alongside his designs for StyleCraft

 I would be remiss if I did not include one of my favorite quotes from Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.”  Ms. Hurston was a fascinating and robust human who rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance.  The quote reads: “But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall.  Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow.  Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things, priceless and worthless.  A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.  In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held—so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly.  A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter.  Perhaps that is how the great stuffer of bags filled them in the first place—who knows?” (1928)

Let us all commit ourselves this year to take stock of the people with whom we work and support. When we look at these friends, if it feels a bit too much like looking in the mirror, let us nudge that image and adjust the collection to include more individuals—people with a different background and alternate perspective than our own. Our world deserves a medley.

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