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Thu - 22 Dec 2022

Stella Jean’s Emotional Return To Milan Fashion Week SS23


Not a dry eye in the room.

Designer Stella Jean made an emotional return to the Milan stage this season
after boycotting the Milan ready-to-wear shows for lack of BIPOC

This time, the runway was graced by Italian women of minority origins,
some of whom had been victims of racial abuse and or had had their
lives threatened. “You are not alone.” Stella pledged to these women,
as she made her speech to a tearful crowd. “You are free and this is
your country. Nobody can kick you out. You are already where you
belong. You are home.”

Jean headlined the runway show with Edward Buchanan’s Sansovino 6
label and five new We Are Made in Italy (WAMI) designers: including
Vietnamese apparel designer Phan Dang Hoang, an
Haitian-American-Italian sustainable accessories designer Akila
Stewart, Korean-Italian designer Kim Gauen, and Madagascar Indian
Italian designer Eileen Claudia Akbaraly. It is the third WAMI group
to present their collections in Milan.

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Jean mobilized fellow
designers, posing a question to the fashion chamber Camera Nazionale
della Moda Italiana: Do Black Lives Matter in Italian fashion?

The Haitian-Italian designer has become one of fashion’s biggest
activists. Today, WAMI is the largest and sole national collective and
incubator comprised of multicultural Made in Italy, with all designers
hailing from migratory backgrounds representing and working toward the
substantial multicultural transition of the Italian fashion sector.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Giorgio Armani, who
helped launch Stella Jean in 2013, pitched in with textiles for the
new WAMI capsule collections that were displayed. Conde Nast and
European fashion magazine, nss helped to fund the production whilst the fashion council offered a venue for the show.

After the show, guests were visibly moved. “I felt a part of it,” said
sustainable couture and lingerie designer, Patience Torlowei, who was
sitting in the crowd. After showing in Milan for the first time at a
showcase hosted by the CNMI and Blanc magazine, “A Global Movement to
Uplift Unrepresented Designers”.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” said the Nigerian designer, shaking her
head.  No stranger to violence, Torlowei often utters her country’s
troubled past through scenes of oil and diamond extraction and of war
onto her glistening designs.  Her work has been displayed, one of
which is owned by the National Museum of African Art (NMAA) in
Washington, D.C.; as the first piece of haute couture to enter the
museum collection.

Milan Fashion Week returned with a renewed post-pandemic verve and hosted one of its most culturally diverse fashion weeks ever, both in terms of models and creatives. Spring Summer 2023 welcomed Maximilian Davis, as creative director of
Salvatore Ferragamo, with a co-ed show and  Rhuigi Villaseñor, the
Manila-born designer behind the Rhude brand at Bally.

But Is That Enough?

“We need to continue to be brave even when risks are involved,” Jean
exclaimed, surrounded by top Italian editors and Carlo Capasa, CNMI

When asked if the organization was satisfied with the integration of
minority talent onto the fashion calendar. Buchanan, the first Black creative director of a luxury goods house, hesitated and took a deep breath.

“We made a big leap because people were able to see it.”