Stella Jean, the only Black designer belonging to Italy’s influential fashion council is demanding a “long overdue cultural reform’’ from her colleagues under the slogan: Do #BlackLivesMatter in Italy?
Jean is a unicorn with her self styled brand rooted in multiculturalism, that has been growing since her Milan runway debut seven years ago, which is till evolving within the industry.
Jean and the co author of her appeal, Milan based U.S. designer Edward Buchanan, have expressed in interviews that the issue is deeper than just culturally insensitive designs. They claim that these racially charged highlight the lack of diversity in Italian fashion houses and the “pervasive racism and prejudice” in the industry despite ”significant funds allocated to provide sensitive training.”
“I prepared, together with the women who are victims of micro aggressions, a positive response, also using humour to lighten up this difficult topic a bit, this video ‘Italians in Becoming’ so the new Italy, the new Italianism, the new Italians” Jean said.
A frequent refrain from Black creatives in Italian fashion is that they are often the only non-white person in the workplace. They also see their opportunities and access limited by their ethnic background. Jean emphasised that she is trying to prompt change from within as the only Black designer to belong to the council since its formation in 1958.
The president of Italy’s fashion council, Carlo Capasa, told AP that the council would produce data on diversity inside fashion houses and that a progress report on the diversity manifesto would be made in December. He said the global Black Lives Matter protests had created a sense of urgency behind diversity pledges and acknowledged that “in Italy, there is a certain rigidity.”
So far, responses to her call to action have been less than encouraging as she received a letter from the council president saying that addressing racial disparity within Italian fashion was not within the body’s area of responsibility, despite the fact that members had backed a diversity manifesto in December. According to the letter, such initiatives “pertain instead to parliament, the government or any other bodies.”