The designer Stella Jean wished to make one thing clear about an impassioned letter she despatched to Italian trend’s governing physique: “It’s not a protest,” she mentioned. “I’m not protesting. It’s a proposal.”
Final week Ms. Jean despatched the letter — titled “Do #BLM in Italian Vogue?” — to the president and 14 government board members of the Digital camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, which organizes the Milan reveals. These board members included the chief executives of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and extra. The letter was co-signed by Edward Buchanan, an American designer based mostly in Milan.
Within the letter, shared with reporters on July 30, Ms. Jean and Mr. Buchanan requested for “a constructive, working dialogue” about the way to finest help the nation’s Black designers forward of Milan Vogue Week in September.
They acknowledged that in late 2019, the style council had revealed a manifesto promising “sweeping reforms” in range and inclusion. They advised that these reforms had not but come.
As proof, Ms. Jean cited the latest Milan Digital Fashion Week, which had no Black designers on the primary streaming calendar, she mentioned — although a number of had been highlighted elsewhere on the web site, alongside different worldwide or rising manufacturers.
“Let’s change issues,” she and Mr. Buchanan wrote within the letter. As a substitute of spherical tables on range, they proposed “true work, true collaboration.”
Carlo Capasa, the president of the Digital camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, mentioned in an e-mail Friday that the council’s dedication to inclusion was “actual and measurable,” pointing to its manifesto, its “enormous” effort to scout rising manufacturers and, particularly, its years of monetary help to Ms. Jean.
“I can say we supported her model in a rare means compared to our commonplace help to rising manufacturers,” he mentioned.
The Italian trend business has been lengthy criticized over incidences of racism and cultural appropriation. Lately, Dolce & Gabbana launched advertisements that drove Chinese customers to burn their previous purchases; Prada made bag charms that evoked blackface; Gucci made balaclava sweaters that had been equally suggestive.
However the controversies in Italian trend have stored coming: Marni apologized Wednesday for a “Jungle Temper” marketing campaign that the style business watchdog Eating regimen Prada called out for “alluding to racist, colonial stereotypes.”
Ms. Jean, who’s Haitian-Italian, had a suggestion for these manufacturers in her letter: “For firms wishing to proceed to attract free inspiration from Black tradition,” a company known as Made in Africa will present an inventory of African artisans who can “prepare and collaborate with Italian firms,” in order that manufacturers “not create collections merely impressed by Africa,” however are “consciously created with Africa.”
The letter additionally advised making a public database of Italian trend firms and their percentages of Black workers. (Mr. Capasa mentioned the council was conducting a survey to “map and monitor” manufacturers’ inclusion and variety efforts.) It emphasised the necessity to highlight Black expertise and for younger Black designers to have entry to trend colleges in Italy.
In responding to the letter, Mr. Capasa informed Ms. Jean that he agreed it was “time to cross from phrases to motion,” in keeping with a replica of the response that he supplied to The New York Instances. He gave examples of latest occasions and public discussions hosted by his group that includes Black voices from around the globe.
He wrote that it was “a pity” Ms. Jean had by no means requested to be a part of the variety and inclusion work group, and he maintained that she had at all times been given help, attaching an inventory of reductions she had obtained since 2013, totaling greater than 175,000 euros.
“We’ve granted you varied gratuities and preferential therapy in the previous couple of years,” he mentioned. “I don’t perceive why you write as if none of this ever occurred.”
In an interview, Ms. Jean acknowledged the monetary assist however mentioned that Mr. Capasa had missed the purpose of her letter: It wasn’t about her however about all Black individuals in Italian trend.
“We’re nonetheless fully invisible to them,” she mentioned.
Greater than 100 firms make up the Digital camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, however Ms. Jean mentioned her firm is the one Black-owned model.
This isn’t her first time talking out in regards to the marginalization of individuals of coloration in Italy. Throughout Milan Vogue Week in February, as an alternative of a runway present, she made a video that includes Italian girls — college students, legal professionals, executives — sharing racist remarks that they had obtained. (It was extra upbeat than it sounds.)
Ms. Jean mentioned she is not going to return to the official Milan Vogue Week calendar till she is not the one Black designer on it. She has grown uninterested in being an anomaly.
“I don’t need to be the one one anymore,” she mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s not about boycotting. It’s about asking for change.”