As one of its first initiatives, the Hospitality Diversity Action Council (HDAC) has announced its Awards of Excellence program. The honor recognizes exemplary work in the hospitality industry by individuals and companies that are working to advance the field through the promotion of diversity, inclusivity, and equity. The HDAC award winner is acknowledged for their contributions to the hospitality industry through the lenses of professional excellence; promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and affecting change.

“With this award, we hope to elevate and celebrate the individuals doing exemplary work through the promotion of diversity, inclusivity, and equity,” says HDAC member Ming Thompson, cofounder of Atelier Cho Thompson.

The inaugural winner, Dyonne Fashina, is the founder and principal designer at Toronto-based interiors studio Denizens of Design, where she emphasizes empathy in projects, including the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. “Our design approach is intuitive and begins with one thing: listening,” she says. “It also means we approach the history of the structure and site with sensitivity and compassion.”

As both a woman of color and an avid traveler, “there have been many times where I haven’t felt welcome in a hospitality space,” Fashina says. “Architectural styles that evoke white supremacy, artifacts pillaged through colonialism, and design motifs that appropriate other cultures are alienating to a modern, educated, diverse market of guests and users. Designing with a sense of cultural awareness and sourcing objects ethically are no longer eccentricities. They are necessities.”

Fashina will be celebrated—along with the finalists and winners of HD Awards project and product categories, and the Hotelier and Designer of the Year—at the September 21st event at Cipriani South Street in New York. Purchase tickets to the 2021 HD Awards ceremony here.