Milan Fashion Week hears calls for more designer diversity.

Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean returns to the runways of Milan after a two-year hiatus, highlighting the talents of 10 new color designers whose design history is tied to Italy.

Jean has vowed not to return to Milan Fashion Week, which opened Wednesday, in 2020 unless she becomes the only black designer. The We Are Made in Italy movement, which she co-founded with black American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milan founder Michele Ngomno, confirmed that she would not.

Maximillian Davies, 27, is making his debut as the creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo, a British fashion designer of Afro-Caribbean roots. Filipino American designer Rhuigi Villasenor is bringing Bali back to the runway for the first time in 20 years. Founded by British-Nigerian designer Inye Tokyo Gems, Tokyo Gems is offering a women’s only collection.

Jean is showing the runway with Buchanan and five new Italian designers, including a Vietnamese clothing designer, an Italian Indian accessory designer and an African American handbag designer. It is the third WAMI group to present their collections in Milan.

“We feel sorry for ourselves,” Jean told The Associated Press. “We invited all these young people.” We created the place. They made a profit.”

Buchanan opened the show with a jersey knit with a denim feel from the Sansonvino 6 line, followed by a capsule collection by Fabulous Five WAMI designers and Jane’s creations paired with artisanal references from around the world.

Designer Stella Jean receives applause at the end of the Women's Spring/Summer 2018/19 fashion collection presented on September 24, 2017 in Milan, Italy.

Designer Stella Jean receives applause at the end of the Women’s Spring/Summer 2018/19 fashion collection presented on September 24, 2017 in Milan, Italy.

Each of the new WAMI designers has a connection to Italy through family or by moving here to study or work.

Italian-Indian designer Eileen Claudia Akbarali showcases Made for a Woman, a brand of ethically sourced raffia clothing and accessories from Madagascar. New York-based designer Akila Stewart founded the bag brand FATRA, which works with recycled plastic waste. India-born Neha Poorswani designs shoes under the name “Runway Reinvented”. Vietnamese designer Phang Dang Hong’s clothing line blends Asian and Western cultures, and Korean designer Kim Geun’s Villain brand combines elements of traditional Korean clothing mixed with contemporary hip-hop culture.

“There are a lot of Italians who are not Italians, immigrants who feel Italian. I think that’s beautiful,” Stewart said.

The show closed with a bang, with the models, designers and activists gathered on the balcony clapping and swaying to Cynthia Erivo’s song. stand up.

Trussardi and Vogue Italia, both based in Italy, used the WAMI database of fashion experts of color, although the list was not employed as industry-wide as the founders had hoped. Giselle Claudia Nsama, one of the designers of the first WAMI class, worked in the Valentino design office.

In the year Giorgio Armani, who helped launch Stella Jean in 2013, has stepped in with textiles for the new WAMI capsule collection, shown here. Conde Nast and European fashion magazine nss They are helping to support their product. The three founders of WAMI have provided the fashion council with space for the show, but they are covering the rest from their own pockets after providing limited funding compared to previous seasons.

Ngonmo said Italian fashion houses often confuse diversity — for example, featuring black models — with true inclusion, which involves employing professionals in the creative process.

The creations, which are part of the 'We Are Made in Italy' fashion event, will be shown during Women's Spring Summer 2023 Fashion Week on September 21, 2022 in Milan, Italy.

The creations, which are part of the ‘We Are Made in Italy’ fashion event, will be shown during Women’s Spring Summer 2023 Fashion Week on September 21, 2022 in Milan, Italy.

“I have a feeling they don’t really understand what diversity means. They confuse diversity with inclusion,” she says.

Buchanan says he remains optimistic but admits the post-pandemic market is tough as stores invest in new designer collections.

“We knew going into this,” Buchanan said, “that we have to be clear about what’s in front of them in collaboration with designers. … They’re not going to be Gianni Versace tomorrow.”

Jean explained that new designers for major fashion brands are imported from outside the Italian system. Despite the progress, she and her colleagues still look to hire people of color in creative roles and challenge the idea that “Made in Italy” can include local black talent.

“It’s more attractive to have someone from outside,” she said.

Jean also said she is waiting for the Italian Fashion Council to follow up on an invitation to create a multicultural board within its structure. She said she feels the initial industry embrace of the diversity project has slowed.

“None of us believe the general nature of the promises. Now we are entering the territory we know very well, when people feel free and comfortable not to honor the promises. It is clear,” said Jin.

About her future: “I’m at a crossroads,” said the designer. “

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