MILAN () – A show of digital tracks by five Italian fashion designers of African descent opens on Wednesday in Milan Fashion Week, a tangible result of a campaign launched last summer by the only black Italian designer belonging to the Milan Fashion Chamber.
After initial resistance and a slow start, designer Stella Jean attributes “much goodwill” to the Italian National Fashion Chamber in promoting expanded collaboration with five young designers, including funding and partnerships with Italian suppliers.
“If you want to do something, you can do it right away,” said Jean, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matters campaign in the Italian fashion campaign. “I have worked hard to overcome this sequence, which is part of the mentality of a certain part of the Italian fashion world.”
She launched the campaign with designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week founder Michelle Ngomo after fashion houses expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matters Movement on Instagram and demanded to take action on their social media commitments. Jean, who took a break when Giorgio Armani invited her to a performance at his theater in 2014, said that focusing on Italy of African descent was important in tackling one of the first obstacles the campaign had encountered: there were no blacks. designers in Italy.
The collaboration with the Italian Fashion Council will continue in September, when five new designers from the Italian minority communities will present themselves during Fashion Week. And Jean is also creating an event featuring designers and craftsmen from Africa to create a partnership between Italian fashion houses that can learn sustainable production methods in exchange for training in the global fashion system.
“You’re talking about sustainability ad nauseam here, and what I see is everything but sustainable, believe me.” In the countries where I work, people work 99% sustainably because of necessity, limitation or desire, `’said Jean.
Jean also works on a database of African craftsmanship, fabrics, motifs and other cultural references. The Italian-Haitian designer sees the move as a bulwark against cultural property that does not benefit Africans in economic terms, and as a way to prevent racist gaffi.
Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology, said many of Jean’s ideas could be replicated in the United States and elsewhere.
Steele, who has some of Jean’s creations in her collection, recorded an interview with Italian designer for Black History Month, which will be posted on FIT on YouTube on Thursday to highlight Jean’s role in shaking Italian fashion.
Steele said black designers are also under-represented in the United States, despite the role that black culture plays in inspiring fashion.
“When we did an exhibition about black fashion designers a few years ago, which was an international show that featured Stella, we were very shocked to realize that there was something ridiculous on Vogue.com, like 1% of designers who were introduced, Black, “Steele said.