Call for designer diversity at Milan Fashion Week
Jean, who debuted in Milan in 2013, has vowed not to return to Milan Fashion Week following the Black Lives Matter protests as long as she remains the only black designer. She’s gone this week.
Maximilian Davis, a 26-year-old British fashion designer with Afro-Caribbean roots, makes her debut as creative director for Salvatore Ferragamo. Filipino-American designer Luigi Villasenor brings Bally to the runway for the first time in 20 years. Founded by Nigerian-born British designer Inie Tokyo James, Tokyo James presents a collection exclusively for women.
Jean said the real change she was persuaded to return to the Milan runway was Milan-based African-American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milano founder Michelle Ngonmo. This is the result of the We Are Made in Italy campaign she launched in 2020.
Jean will headline the runway show alongside Buchanan and five new We Are Made in Italy designers, including a Vietnamese apparel designer, an Italian-Indian accessory designer and an African-American bag designer. She will be the third WAMI group to present a collection in Milan.
“We’re making ourselves feel,” Jean told The Associated Press. “We invited all these young people. We created a space. We made a profit.”
Successful campaign two years ago: Trussardi and Vogue Italia both used WAMI’s database of Italian-based fashion professionals of color, but the list was as industry-wide as the founders hoped. Not employed by. Gisele Claudia Ntsama, one of the first WAMI class designers, worked in Valentino’s design office.
Giorgio Armani, who helped launch Stella Jean in 2013, pitched the textiles for the new WAMI capsule collection shown here. Conde Nast and European fashion magazine nss provide production funding. The Fashion Council provided the venue for the show, but with limited funding compared to previous seasons, the three WAMI founders are covering the rest out of their own pockets.
Italian fashion houses too often confuse diversity, such as showcasing black models, with true inclusivity, hiring experts in the creative process, Ngonmo said.
“I feel like they don’t understand the meaning of diversity at all. They tend to confuse diversity with inclusivity,” she said.
Buchanan said he remains optimistic, but acknowledged the post-pandemic market will be difficult as stores aren’t investing in collections by new designers.
“We knew it would slow growth,” Buchanan said. “We have to work with designers to be transparent about what lies ahead of them. …Tomorrow they won’t be Gianni Versace.”
Jean said new designers for major fashion brands came from abroad, not through the Italian system. Despite the progress, she and her collaborators are keen to employ people of color in creative roles and that ‘Made in Italy’ could involve locally-grown black talent. I still feel resistance to the idea.
“It’s more attractive to have someone from the outside,” she said.
Jean also said she was waiting for the Italian fashion council to follow an invitation to create a multicultural commission within its structure. He said he feels
“None of us believed in all of our promises. It’s obvious,’ said Gene.
About her future: “I’m at a crossroads,” said the designer. “Outside the door I was allowed to enter is my traveling companion. For a while you feel special being alone in the room. You know you weren’t special when you saw a lot of people out there were better than you, you were very lucky.”