Milan Fashion Week hears calls for more designer diversity

Sep 20, 2022, 4:35 PM | Updated: Sep 21, 2022, 9:21 am
Creations, part of the 'We Are Made in Italy' collecting fashion event are shown during the women's...

Creations, part of the 'We Are Made in Italy' collecting fashion event are shown during the women's Spring Summer 2023 fashion week, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Milan Fashion Week opening Wednesday celebrates perhaps its most diverse season ever, abuzz with new creative directors of color at such storied houses as Salvatore Ferragamo and Bally and marking the return of Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean after a two-year haitus. But Jean and other industry insiders behind a two-year campaign to open the Italian fashion world to talent from minority backgrounds say true inclusivity remains elusive. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

MILAN (AP) — The Milan Fashion Week that opens Wednesday is showcasing collections by perhaps its most ethnically diverse lineup of designers, including the debuts of the new creative directors of Salvatore Ferragamo and Bally and the return of Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean after a two-year hiatus.

But Jean and other industry insiders behind a campaign to open the Italian fashion world to talent from minority backgrounds say true inclusivity remains elusive.

Jean, who debuted in Milan in 2013, pledged on the heels of Black Lives Matter protests not to return to Milan Fashion Week as long as she remained the only Black designer represented. This week, she won’t be.

Maximilian Davis, a 27-year-old British fashion designer with Afro-Caribbean roots, is making his debut as the creative director for Salvatore Ferragamo. Filipino American designer Rhuigi Villasenor is bringing Bally back to the runway for the first time in 20 years. Tokyo James, founded by British-Nigerian designer Iniye Tokyo James, is presenting a women’s-only collection.

Jean said the real shift that persuaded her to return to the Milan runway was the work of the We Are Made in Italy campaign, which she launched in 2020 with Milan-based African American designer Edward Buchanan and Afro Fashion Week Milano founder Michelle Ngonmo.

Jean is scheduled to headline a runway show with 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. It is the third WAMI group to present their collections in Milan.

“We are making ourselves felt,” Jean told The Associated Press. “We invited all these young people. We created the space. There have been gains.”

Among the 2-year-old campaign’s successes: Both Trussardi and Vogue Italia have used WAMI’s database of fashion professionals of color who are based in Italy, although the listings have not been employed as industry-wide as the founders hoped. One of the designers from the first WAMI class, Gisele Claudia Ntsama, has worked in the design office at Valentino.

Giorgio Armani, who helped launch Stella Jean in 2013, pitched in with textiles for the new WAMI capsule collections to be displayed here. Conde Nast and European fashion magazine nss are helping to fund their production. The three WAMI founders are covering the rest from their own pockets after the fashion council offered a venue for the show but limited funding compared with previous seasons.

Ngonmo said Italian fashion houses too often confuse diversity — such as showcasing Black models — with true inclusivity, which would involve employing professionals in the creative process.

“I have a feeling they don’t understand at all what diversity means. They tend to confuse diversity with inclusion,” she said.

Buchanan said he holds on to his optimism but acknowledged that the post-pandemic market is difficult as stores are not investing in collections by new designers.

“We knew going into this that this was going to be a slow grow,” Buchanan said. “Working with the designers, we have to be transparent about what is ahead of them. … They are not going to be Gianni Versace tomorrow.”

Jean noted that the new designers for major fashion brands did not come up through the Italian system but from abroad. Despite the progress, she and her collaborators still see some resistance to hiring people of color in creative roles and to the idea that “Made in Italy” can involve homegrown Black talent.

“It is more glamorous to have someone from the outside,” she said.

Jean said she is also waiting for the Italian fashion council to follow through on an invitation to create a multicultural board within its structure. She said she feels the initial industry embrace of the diversity project has cooled.

“None of us believed the totality of the promises. Now we are entering a territory that we know well, when people feel free and comfortable not to maintain promises. It is obvious,” Jean said.

As for her future: “I am at a crossroads,” the designer said. “My traveling companions are outside the door that I was allowed to enter. For a while, being the only one in the room, you feel special. But when you see that many of those who are still outside the door are better than you, you understand that you were not special. You were very lucky.”

___

This version corrects the age of British designer Maximilian Davis to 27, not 26.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

The Righting deciphers conservative media for outsiders

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly six years into monitoring the content of conservative media outlets for his website and newsletter The Righting, Howard Polskin hasn’t lost the capacity for surprise. Case in point: when Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, and many of his long-time media allies let fly with anger and insults. Two […]
1 day ago
This photo shows Charles Graves dressed as Santa Claus in Austin, Texas on on Sept. 3, 2022. Graves...
Associated Press

Santa’s back in town with inflation, inclusion on his mind

NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t look for plastic partitions or faraway benches when visiting Santa Claus this year. The jolly old elf is back, pre-pandemic style, and he’s got some pressing issues on his mind. Santa booker HireSanta.com has logged a 30% increase in demand this Christmas season over last year, after losing about 15% […]
1 day ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and wife Gisele arrive to vote in Braddock, Pa, Tuesday...
Associated Press

Pennsylvania campaign wildcard Fetterman turns to governing

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — When John Fetterman goes to Washington in January as one of the Senate’s new members, he’ll bring along an irreverent style from Pennsylvania that extends from his own personal dress code — super casual — to hanging marijuana flags outside his current office in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania’s unique lieutenant governor, […]
1 day ago
FILE - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian gestures as he speaks during a daily brief...
Associated Press

China vows more ‘friendly consensus’ amid Vatican complaints

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing and the Vatican are once again tangling over the prickly issue of appointing Chinese bishops. After complaints from the Vatican that Beijing was violating a 2018 interim accord, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the country is willing to expand the “friendly consensus” achieved with the Vatican over […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

This Week: Consumer confidence, consumer spending, jobs data

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: CONFIDENCE CHECK The Conference Board delivers its latest index of U.S. consumer confidence Tuesday. Economists expect the reading fell in November to 98. That would follow a reading of 102.5 in October. A reading of 90 or better reflects a […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Denmark: Nigerian pirate found guilty but not imprisoned

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A 31-year-old Nigerian man who was seriously injured during a gunfight last year with Danish troops on an anti-piracy mission off West Africa was Monday found guilty of endangering others by a Danish court. However, the court ruled that the man, had his leg amputated, should be not be jailed because […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Milan Fashion Week hears calls for more designer diversity