Frances May is owned by an Indigenous Karuk woman, me, Pamela Baker-Miller. I was raised by my white family, whose own understanding of race was to not see race. Although well-intentioned, this construct denied my existence as a Brown person in white spaces. My journey to self-discovery has been a long and confusing one, and Frances May has been a personal exploration for me since the beginning; the business has grown as I have grown.
I have always been acutely aware of the whiteness and patriarchy that prevails in the fashion industry, from the lack of representation of BIPoC designers at Market, to its failings to celebrate all body types, and don’t even get me started with cultural appropriation. Why am I telling you this? The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor & Ahmaud Aubrey lifted the curtain to any plausible deniability that racism not only exists but also thrives in our society. Our country was built on the genocide of Native Americans, which paved the way for the African slave trade. Our country’s foundation, built by slave labor upon which we now build our homes, our businesses, our schools, our lives, is still killing our Black community.
Like many of you, I have been unable to take my eyes off the news cycle, hungry for information, for guidance, for purpose, for justice, and ultimately for a way forward.
This is where I take pause. I am not a political activist, a policymaker, or an educator. I am an artist, a small business owner, a mother, a neighbor - how can I affect change in a meaningful and lasting way? How has my business contributed to the perpetuation of racism? How can I stop? How can I use Frances May to create a space that’s not inherently white? These are the questions I’m addressing. Over the past twelve years, I have made efforts to amplify marginalized voices by diversifying our stockists, working with artists for our window displays, and having more representation in our models, but these are starting to feel like tokens of antiracism. How do I authentically use the lens of racial equity to inform my decision-making at all levels of my business?
Relationships are the heart of Frances May. Within this framework:
I am examining all existing business partners to see if they share my desire for inclusion.
I am cutting designers who are using any kind of appropriation or do not reflect a vision for a future of inclusion within our industry.
I am reallocating those funds towards BIPoC designers, creatives, and artists. This will take time to build new genuine relationships- and work around designer production schedules.
Long term, I would like to create a space where I can offer the resources for artists of color to launch their own businesses.
As a team, we are educating ourselves on systemic racism in order to address and dismantle it within our own practices.
We are deepening our connection to our community, showing up to support local activists, organizations, and artists. Our team commits to developing lasting relationships with Black, Indigenous and PoC folx in order to actively bring those voices into Portland fashion, rather than simply tokenizing people and their work.
While this has always been important to me, there is a new urgency for such changes. If you are a small business owner, designer, or creative and this vision for the future resonates, let’s connect. Let’s build a community that’s lasting.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Defund the Police.