As Milan Fashion Week virgins, attending Stella Jean's SS14 showcase in the spectacular theatre of Giorgio Armani's headquarters was the perfect way to get acquainted with Italian style. We were graciously invited by the International Trade Centre (ITC)- Ethical Fashion Initiative who work with Stella Jean to produce some of her collection in Burkina Faso with local women using their hand woven striped fabric. The EFI also work similarly with Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Sass & Bide, partnering artisans in West and East Africa with designers and buyers globally. For Stella Jean, it's about more than making beautiful clothes but using them to create opportunities for other people which as SBA we couldn't co-sign harder.
Brightening up the usually minimalist Milan with the boldness of her signature ‘Wax and Stripe’ prints, Stella was inspired by her Italian and Haitian heritage. She celebrated the 50’s and 60’s Italian using black and white images of aristocrats vacationing as her mood board. You can see this in the tailored jackets and belts, but to add depth (and fun!) to the outfits she used African striped handloom fabrics famous in Burkina Faso. Styled all together the pieces are colourfully attention seeking for the bold among us, but broken down these are statement pieces that will work gorgeously on their own. We love the dramatically full skirts, we'll skip autumn/winter and go straight to Spring for those striped jackets - and have you ever tried wearing flowers with your headwrap?
Backstage it was interesting to hear Giorgio Armani discussing with renowned fashion journalist Suzy Menkes the importance of Stella's ethnicity, the diversity of fashion and how these contribute to making fashion more modern. It's due to his support that she was able to showcase in such prestigious surroundings, giving her collection the glamour it deserves. As his new protégé he also gave her some critical advice that we can all remember whatever the industry.
As well as a collection that we want to fill our wardrobes and summer days with, Stella's background, design talent and ethical awareness are able to open up the dialogue for designer giants to collaborate with African heritage in a meaningful way. As much as we love her diverse background and use of colour, we'd also love to see that translated on her runways as one of our Twitter followers rightly highlighted the lack of black models used in the showcase. Something supermodels including Iman and Naomi Campbell are currently fighting to change on fashion runways.
After the success of the show, with a FROW that included Franca Sozzani and Suzy Menkes, Stella's SS14 collection left a definite impression on the Milan schedule and we can't wait to see what else she has in store for us. Until next season!
For more information on Stella Jean's Collection and work with ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative click here.
Author: Alae Ismail, Co-Founder of SBA and Milan Fashion Week survivor.