MILAN (AP) — The only black designer from moderate Italy is pulling out of Milan Fashion Week this month for failing to stand up for diversity and inclusion, and announced a hunger strike on Wednesday out of fear that other minority creators associated with her suffer a setback.
Stella Jean told The Associated Press that Italy’s National Fashion Chamber has drastically reduced its support for the We Are Made in Italy collective of young color designers working in Italy after she gave an impassioned speech about the personal prize she a for highlighting racial injustices in Italy during a fashion show last September.
With Stella Jean, the WAMI collective withdraws from fashion week, which it was supposed to open with a digital presentation.
Italian Fashion Chamber president Carlo Capasa told the AP he regretted Stella Jean’s decision, adding that the latest fashion week calendar, which was due to be presented on Wednesday, was “full of diversity”.
“In the calendar that we present today, you can see everything we do for people of color who work in Italy,” Capasa told the AP. A press conference was scheduled for later Wednesday.
Jean sent a letter to Capasa informing her of her hunger strike, which she said would only be revoked with her written assurance that no professional harm would be caused to the designers and supporters of WAMI “due to our history of misunderstandings”. .
“This admittedly extreme action comes as I have heard several voices from the collective concerned about the ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ implications, including difficulties in securing funding and services from sponsors and partners given the power you serve in the industry as Speaker of the House,” she wrote in a letter obtained by the AP.
Capasa said he had not yet read the letter and was unaware of the hunger strike and WAMI’s withdrawal. Stella Jean and WAMI both appeared on a draft Milan Fashion Week calendar featuring mostly women’s previews for next winter, which was released last month.
WAMI was launched in 2020 in the wake of the Black Lives Matters movement by Jean, African-American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milano director Michelle Ngonmo to raise awareness of the under-representation of minorities in the fashion world. Italian fashion. A number of racist gaffes by major fashion houses followed, making headlines around the world.
Ngonmo told the AP that the chamber’s financial support for the project had dwindled over the past three years and Afro Fashion Week Milano had been unable to raise the 20,000 euros ($21,000 ) what it would have cost to support the five young designers by showcasing solid looks, plus a video.
The Italian Fashion Chamber fully supported the collections of the two WAMI classes, each with five designers, but the third generation received no funding from the chamber, Ngonmo and Jean said. The September show, featuring Jean, Buchanan and WAMI, was funded by other allies and their own contributions.
“Maybe the message is that the whole industry needs to open their eyes and say what we can do to make this happen?” Ngonmo told the AP.
A WAMI designer, Joy Meribe, opened the preview for Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2022, a major milestone for the movement.
But Jean said such moves have proven to be “successful”.
“They used WAMI as a license to behave safely for diversity,” Jean told the AP. She said she was retiring out of fatigue with the “constant battle” for color designer recognition in Italy.
“I’m a fighter by nature, but I can’t always be like that,” she said.
Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
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