Early life and education
The daughter of two public school teachers, Bland was born in 1982 in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. She was sewing by the time she was eight years old and put on her first show in high school, with 32 original creations marching through the cafeteria and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in fashion design.
She served as a youth minister in Pohick Church, and in 2005 when serving as summer staff in a Woods & Waters Workcamp said she wants her charges to "reach out to people and show them what Christ's love is".
She worked on the design floor for Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, and in parallel started her own label, Brooklyn Royalty in 2006. Bland attempted to source production locally, but faced difficulties. In 2014 Bland said that her line participated in four to five fashion week events since being founded.
Manufacture New York and ethical fashion
In 2012 Bland founded Manufacture New York which operates a 160,000 square foot industrial plaza in Sunset Park, Brooklyn named Manufacturing Innovation Hub for Apparel, Textiles and Wearable Tech, and a work hive for independent designers. Bland worked closely with congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and solicited grant money from NY city officials, receiving grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Growth Accelerator Fund, followed by a $3.5 million grant from New York City. In 2016 the organization was part of an initiative named Advanced Functional Fabrics of America that was awarded $75M federal grant from the Department of Defense.
Following the 2013 Savar building collapse which killed more than 1000 in Bangladesh, Bland has called for on-shoring of the apparel manufacturing industry saying that cheap fashion from off-shored manufacturing exacts a toll in lives and lack of sustainability.
Bland was an early member of the Facebook discussions and planning with Teresa Shook that would culminate in the Women's March on Washington and associated international marches held after the inauguration of Donald Trump. She served as the Washington National co-chair of the organization when it was incorporated. Fortune magazine named her and the other public faces of the movement in a list of 100 greatest leaders in relation to the March.
Bland later criticized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. According to Bland, white women are complicit in white supremacy as they benefit from it by virtue of being white due to white privilege, and therefore they should let people of color take the lead in the struggle.
In 2019, Bland garnered criticism for blaming the "Jewish establishment" for the Christchurch mosque shooting when she shared a critical Facebook post by Jewish activist Jesse Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz had written “The same language and hate that folks spew against Sisters Linda Sarsour and Rep. Ilhan Omar killed 54 Muslim’s [sic] in New Zealand. You can’t stand in solidarity with the Muslim community and simultaneously disavow Muslim women for speaking their truths. American Jewish Establishment, I’m looking at you”.
Bland married her high school sweetheart, Michael Foulger, in 2009. They were wed at Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City. They left the city after purchasing a historical home in West Philadelphia.
Bland has two daughters, one born in 2011 and the other born shortly after the US election in 2016. During the Women's march events in 2017 she often brought her baby girl on stage with her, had been photographed with her, and spoken on the topic of modern motherhood. She says it gives her new perspective and reason to improve the world.
Honors and awards
- New York Observer Brooklyn Machers List 2015: The New Industrialist
- Fortune 50 World's Greatest Leaders
- 2017 Time 100's Most Influential People
- 2017 Webby Award Social Movement of the Year
- Glamour Women of the Year (awarded to 24 organizers of the 2017 Women's March)
- McSweeney, Leah; Siegel, Jacob (2018-12-10). "Is the Women's March Melting Down?". Tablet Magazine.
- GÉOPOLITIQUE(S) / LA TRANSITION PRÉSIDENTIELLE AMÉRICAINE, Market, 2017, issue 134, page 22
- Warrington, Ruby (October 9, 2013). "Manufacture New York Provides Production Facilities to Independent Designers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
- Pasquarelli, Adrianne. "Bob Bland spices up fashion incubator". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- 'A road trip for Jesus', Midland Daily News, 10 July 2005
- "Why the Next Big Thing in Fashion Is Happening in Brooklyn". Inc.com. February 8, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
- Brooklyn’s Wearable Revolution, New York Times, 30 April 2016
- The Staggering Economics Behind New York Fashion Week (interview with Bland), 28 Aug 2014, racked
- Manufacture NY settles in Brooklyn, secures sole NYC SBA accelerator grant, 20 October 2014, technical.ly
- City grants $3.5M for textile making in Sunset Park: Manufacture NY, technical.ly, 5 Dec 2014
- Friedman, Arthur (May 10, 2016). "Manufacture New York Blossoms in Brooklyn". WWD. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Manufacture NY and FIT partner to bring revolutionary textile innovation to New York, 5 April 2016, Manufacture NY and FIT press release
- New training hub to focus on high-tech textiles, Crain's New York, 21 April 2016
- When Cheap Fashion Kills, How Do We Go Forward?, Bob Bland, Real Clear Politics, 24 April 2014
- Cheap fashion kills people... (interview with Bland), RT, The Big Picture, 30 April 2014
- Cooney, Samantha (December 18, 2017). "Women's March Co-President Bob Bland Says White Women Need to 'Take a Seat' After Charlottesville". Motto. Time. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Oster, Marcy (March 25, 2019). "WOMEN'S MARCH LEADER BLAMES 'AMERICAN JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT' FOR CHRISTCHURCH ATTACKS". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
- "Jesse Rabinowitz". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
- "Brooklyn Royalty". www.brooklynroyalty.com. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- The Women of the Women's March: Meet the Activists Who Are Planning One of the Largest Demonstrations in American History, W Magazine, 19 Jan 2017
- "Bob Bland Womens March". MOTHER. September 1, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Gann, Jen (21 Jan 2017). "Here's Why a Women's March Organizer Brought Her Baby Onstage". The Cut.
- "The New Brooklyn Machers: A Very Short List of Change Agents and Wavemakers". New York Observer. May 13, 2015. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- "Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez". Fortune. March 23, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- "Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour: The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- "Meet This Year's Webby Special Achievement Winners". The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
- Afshani, Anna Holmes,Miguel Reveriego,Deborah. "How the Women's March Organizers Sparked a Movement". Glamour. Retrieved December 18, 2017.