It’s October the 1st which marks the beginning of Black History Month and the beginning of our series celebrating and focusing on blackness at HQ and beyond. It’s important to acknowledge and look back at the past this month but also to recognise that Black history is being made right now. With that in mind, over the next four weeks we’ll be speaking with our black colleagues and the creatives we love, to celebrate and explore their black identity.  Kicking off the series is our very own Iconic Islander, Liseli, the woman you’ve been seeing all over our insta. Find out more about this gem and what Black History Month means to her …

Tell us a bit about yourself …

I’m 27 years old and I look after the relationship with our existing customer base, making sure they get the best of RI when they need it at the right time. Officially, my title is Customer Retention Manager but unofficially I'm causing creative chaos on the Island.

What does being Black mean to you?

Being Black means joy, laughter, love, family and admiration. It means having a community that comes together when it matters most, it’s being celebrated all around by other cultures; its magic all around.

Who & what inspires you?

Black women who are killing it in their fields of profession. Shout out to some of my main sources of inspiration: Marketing Geniuses: Bozoma St John (CMO of Netflix) and Ukonwa Ojo (CMO of Amazon Prime Studios) and Literary wonders: poet Upile Chisala and author Tomi Adeyemi. Their vulnerability of who they are, and their bravery in being themselves forms the foundation of their essence. Their understanding of the relationship with self is ridiculously evident in their work and they are unapologetically themselves. Their work flows out from who they are, and for me that is inspirational as I want everything I do, especially my work, to flow out from who I am.

We think your style is amazing! Do you take inspiration from anyone in particular, or from films, music, art etc?

The fictional character from Scandal, Olivia Pope, was a huge inspiration as she was a black woman who looked fashionable in places of influence. She redefined what dressing for the professional environment meant for me. Then I mixed in my love of bright colours and it all continued to flow to what you see now. I’m continually evolving and unravelling so I suspect it will change soon.

Why did you choose to work in the Fashion Industry?

The Fashion Industry can be a diverse space that encourages different identities and talents to thrive. The opportunity to work within an industry where I am represented as a colleague and customer drew me in. In fashion you are free to express yourself in the literal sense such as how you dress yet also in your conversations and business decisions because you are the customer.

You volunteered to be on our internal inclusion committee, why was it important for you to get involved? And, what do you hope will be achieved at HQ?

I can only be the change I want to see. I can only put myself in the room to share my thoughts, views and beliefs on a matter; that is my power and we each have it. So, when that opportunity came up, I didn’t think twice. It’s important to me to have the vocal and physical representation in the room as Diversity is who is in the room and Inclusion is who has influence in that room; so, I had to be there. 

Diverse as it is, like other industries, there is so much more to do in terms of diversity and inclusion being represented throughout senior levels. I would love to see River Island leading tangable change in this, and having people of colour in senior positions with schemes such as Allyship and Mentorship in place to help make it happen.

Why do you think celebrating Black History Month is important?

It’s important because it’s a history of the world that is not taught, let alone in the countries where the Black community live. There is so much out there about the negative aspects of black history, which is unfortunately true, yet Black History Month for me, should be the opportunity to celebrate the other great things that aren’t captured in our education system. It creates a space for future generations to be proud of their history.

How can we keep up the celebration and awareness beyond the ‘official’ four weeks?

By understanding your ‘why’ to wanting to celebrate and increase your awareness of other communities then from there it’s a commitment to always be doing so. The big moments and decisions are great but read that book, widen your friendship circle, have that call, volunteer and actively listen to understand.