The debuts of the new creative directors of Salvatore Ferragamo and Bally, as well as the return of Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean after a two-year absence, are among the highlights of the Milan Fashion Week, which began on Wednesday.
True inclusivity, according to Jean and other business professionals supporting a drive to welcome designers from underrepresented groups into the Italian fashion industry, is still elusive.
Following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Jean, who made her Milan debut in 2013, vowed not to participate in Milan Fashion Week as long as she was the only Black designer present. She won’t be this week.
Afro-Caribbean-born British fashion designer Maximilian Davis, 27, is making his professional debut as the creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo. For the first time in 20 years, Filipino-American fashion designer Rhuigi Villasenor is bringing Bally back to the catwalk. Designer Iniye Tokyo James, a British-Nigerian, started Tokyo James, which is only for women.
The We Are Made in Italy campaign, which Jean developed in 2020 with Milan-based African American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milano founder Michelle Ngonmo, was the fundamental change, according to Jean, that convinced her to return to the Milan runway.
With Buchanan and five new We Are Made in Italy designers, including a Vietnamese clothing designer, an Italian-Indian accessory designer, and an African American bag designer, Jean will host a runway event. The third WAMI group to exhibit in Milan is this one.
The Associated Press was told by Jean that “We are making our presence known.” “All of these young individuals were invited. The area was made by us. Gains have been made.
Despite the fact that the listings have not been used as widely across the industry as the founders had planned, Trussardi and Vogue Italia have both utilised WAMI’s database of fashion professionals of colour who are situated in Italy. Gisele Claudia Ntsama, a designer from the inaugural WAMI class, has experience working in the Valentino design department.
Giorgio Armani contributed fabrics to the new WAMI capsule collections that will be seen here, helping to launch Stella Jean in 2013. Their production is being co-financed by Conde Nast and the European fashion publication nss. The fashion council provided a location for the show but with less funding than in previous seasons, therefore the three founders of WAMI are covering the remainder out of their own pockets.
Ngonmo claimed that Italian design businesses frequently mix up inclusion, which would entail hiring experts in the creative process, with actual diversity, such as by presenting Black models.
They appear to have no concept of what diversity entails. They frequently conflate diversity and inclusion, she said.
Although stores are not investing in collections by new designers, Buchanan recognised that the post-pandemic market is challenging but he still maintains his hope.
We anticipated that this would take time to develop, Buchanan added. We must be open and honest with the designers when working with them. By tomorrow, they won’t resemble Gianni Versace.
Jean pointed out that the newest fashion designers for well-known businesses came from outside of Italy rather than the Italian system. Despite the advancements, she and her partners still encounter considerable opposition to the employment of people of colour in creative positions and to the notion that “Made in Italy” can include locally produced Black talent.
“Having someone from the outside is more glamorous,” she said.
Jean claimed that she is also anticipating the Italian Fashion Council’s acceptance of an invitation to establish a multicultural board inside its organisational framework. She claimed that she believes the industry’s initial enthusiasm for the diversification project has subsided.
“None of us accepted the promises in their entirety. We have now entered a familiar terrain where it is acceptable and even encouraged for people to break their promises. It is plain to see,” Jean stated.
I am at a crossroads, the designer stated of her future. My trip buddies are standing outside the door I was given permission to enter. Being the only person in the room for a while makes you feel special. However, you realise that you weren’t unique when you realise that many of the people who are still outside the door are superior to you. You were incredibly fortunate.