The subject of our cover story is not interested in fads: Hill’s on the lookout for clothing that is smart. Original. With something to say and minimal ecological impact.
Rhonda P. Hill is an American fashion industry analyst, curator, founder of EDGE Fashion Intelligence, and publishing editor of EDGExpo.com. EDGE, the acronym for Emerging Designers Get Exposed, is an international platform advancing the field of fashion in artistic values, cultural significance, and sustainability through the exposure of emerging designers. Hill is an advocate for purpose-driven, responsible, and artistic design output, and gives voice to the underrepresented who meet this criteria.
Hill’s corporate career spanned decades. In the late 1970’s, she pursued a fashion career, directing the entire product development process, in an industry that was underrepresented by African Americans. Proving her talent to lead with major fashion companies like Macy’s and Levi Strauss & Co., she was able to achieve higher levels of responsibility not typically given to women of color. In 1998, Hill became the first African-American Vice President of Disney Consumer Products, of which Disney celebrated her achievement in the July 1999 Black Enterprise magazine.
While working for Levi Strauss & Co in the early 1990’s, Hill participated in environmental, labor, and human rights issues, Hill’s first exposure to a sustainable fashion system. LS & Co was one of the first to address these issues with their Terms of Engagement [TOE] supplier code of conduct guidelines. In working with factories, while sourcing production, Hill was one of the first of her contemporaries to experience this industry-changing movement. “Based on audits, inspections and a quality control process, I could only place production with suppliers that met the TOE guidelines of environmental, ethical, health and safety, and employment practices”. This experience is one of her inspirations as an advocate for sustainable fashion. Her first-hand knowledge has garnered her interviews with mainstream and popular culture media outlets, such as Arden Fanning Andrew’s PAPER Magazine article, “The End of Fast Fashion Is Closer Than You Think” (Lady Gaga Transformation 2020 Issue).
A proponent of ecological and sociological integrity, Hill elevates design excellence and the shifting dynamics necessary to preserve the industry. Gill Stark’s book, The Fashion Show: history, theory, and practice, recognized Hill as an international expert, and mentions her EDGE Out of Africa series on Africa as a developing fashion market. Hill points out how African-based designers and the global diaspora are preserving traditional methods, influencing government-led industry infrastructure, and empowering the workforce for economic and ecological advancement. EDGExpo.com has given exposure through numerous talks with a diverse global network of culturally aware designers who, through their design methodology, preserve their cultural heritage in textiles and artisanal skill.
The EDGE platform takes an intelligent approach on countering the superfluous and frivolous reputation the industry is known for with engagement and educational tools on more substantive issues. Topics that unpack hidden stories, people, and ideas that have contributed to fashion and are worthy of study. Through an anthropological lens, Hill states that “the power of fashion has the unique ability to transform identity and culture”. Her literary composition, A Study of Eight, The Untold American Story [printed hardcover is in the Library of Congress General Collections, as well as other distinguished institutions such as the Smithsonian and Victoria & Albert Museum National Art Library], shows how historically Black fashion makers and influencers used the power of fashion to transform their identity and culture to be included, respected, and recognized in society, and was showcased on NPR’s “Here & Now” program and Oregon ArtsWatch’s Stage & Studio.
As a curator, Hill’s curatorial project, Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, exhibited at GraySpace Gallery, Santa Barbara, California, was viewed as a museum quality exhibit showcasing fashion as an art, on par with any other visual art. She continues to lay the groundwork for contemporary fashion exhibits within the art institutional spaces.
Hill currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, writer and visual artist, Erik ReeL.
Hill was born in 1956 at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Alabama to a Lt. Colonel of the USAF and school teacher. Both parents with degrees from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities), were the first college educated generation in their family. Her father earned a Bachelor of Science from Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama; Master of Science in Science Education from Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee; Master of Science in Business Management at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, and mother earned a teaching degree from Alabama State University (formerly: The Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes), Montgomery, Alabama. They chose education and a military life to upwardly move away from the oppressed South, making a better life for themselves and their three children. Due to her father’s periodic military transfers, Hill lived in various U.S. cities during her childhood and, at a very young age, lived abroad in Tokyo, Japan. The family retired in Glendale, Arizona. In 1974, Hill graduated from the all-female private high school, Xavier College Preparatory, in Phoenix, Arizona and in 1978 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
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