BOOK REVIEW: “THE BLACK MAN’S WHITE INDUSTRY: MY JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD OF MEN’S FASHION”


Let me start by saying that I loved this book! Not so much because it’s about the people I know and adore, but more about the inspiring life lessons that Don Martin imparts by sharing personal experiences. Lessons on building relationships, on earning respect by showing respect, on the arts of salesmanship and negotiation, on family and friendship, on the value of confidence versus the dangers of arrogance, on dealing with failure and overcoming obstacles, and standing up for what you believe in. . In fact, I discovered so many wonderful things in this book, written with real passion and wisdom, that I read it twice, thankful that Martin chose not to hire a ghostwriter as it is the raw emotion in his story. really communicates messages.

ABOVE: Book signing party at Bobby Vans Steakhouse hosted by Don Martin.

Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Don Martin has deep roots in the British Virgin Islands. Growing up with hard-working parents and grandparents shaped humanist values ​​and a strong desire to succeed. But more than anything else, his unique ability to find a common language with all kinds of people is undoubtedly his most valuable asset.

Just don’t pass it! For example, early in his career, Martin discovered that his assistant earned $25 a week more than he did. “I was so hurt that I didn’t know what to do,” he writes. “They took advantage of me again. This was a rude awakening… I went home that evening feeling betrayed: after all I had done for the company, they obviously didn’t care much about me…” The owner of the company, faced with the situation, called Martin into the office his. , and announced he was getting a raise, to which Martin replied, ‘Make sure it’s a lot more than my assistant’s, or it won’t be accepted.’ I was confident in who I was and I would never back down. They gave me what I wanted, we shook hands and I went back to my table. I refused to say thank you as I thought about all the money I had lost in six months. This experience taught me a lot: the business world is not fair; you get what you can negotiate.”

Sharing great stories about the many “characters” in our business, Martin portrays the Golden Age of tailored menswear (the 1980s and ’90s) in remarkable detail. I especially liked Martin’s message to the many Southern executives with whom he did business (before NAFTA): “I wish my Southern cousins ​​would stand up and take a bow for the positive influence you’ve had in my life. All these very good people were white and they literally fought for my time when I arrived in the South. It just proves that most white people are not racist. One of the most influential things a person can do is spend their money with you. These people chose to do business with me as an individual; it absolutely didn’t matter to them that I was Black. I cannot stress this more to young black entrepreneurs: just be yourself, without any preconceived notions.”

And later in the book, Martin writes: “We need to stop dividing and get to know each other as people. This simple act would stop the many unnecessary losses of life we ​​experience here in the United States.”

One part of the book made me sad: Chapter 31, unfortunately (but perhaps accurately) titled The Death of an Industry. “Menswear was dying out by the time I arrived in 1976,” says Martin. “The textile import company I founded did very well until 2010; after the great recession, everyone started to struggle… Peerless still did well because, under the leadership of Ronny Wurtzburger, they shut down all the top designer labels and retailers were forced to buy from them. Private label manufacturers would start dropping like flies… Another major factor was the development of poly-viscose, feeling very similar to wool at a much cheaper price ($3 per yard versus $12). Global warming has also had an effect: people are more comfortable. But the main reason (for the decline of suits) was the dot-com era where billionaires held board meetings in T-shirts and jeans… Putting on a suit takes more time and coordination, and most American men don’t have taste anyway…”

While I’m reluctant to accept Martin’s premise that the days of a thriving suit business are unlikely to return, I greatly admire him for handling several decades of challenges with energy, enthusiasm, pride, tenacity and a considerable dose of chutzpah.

Thanks, Don Martin, for leading the charge.

Says Martin, “The best part of the book signing event was bringing my personal family and my business family together for the first time and seeing my menswear colleagues enjoying each other again. I am so pleased that the menswear industry has embraced me to write this book for our fraternity. My goal was to show the world how effortlessly black and white people can work together; the love we have for each other makes me really emotional sometimes.”



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