In an effort to bring to light the lack of diversity in the Italian fashion industry, the Milan Fashion Week – one of the most prestigious annual fashion events – hosted an event exclusively for Black designers for the first time since its inception.
Dubbed We are Made in Italy, the event which was digitally held as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured five Black designers from the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion group and highlighted the country’s diverse fashion aesthetics, Reuters reports.
Held at the Palazzo Clerici in Milan, the event showcased the spring/summer 2021 collections of Black designers including Karim Daoudi, Fabiola Manirakiza, Joy Meribe, Claudia Gisele Ntsama and Mokodu Fall.
“Made in Italy was represented around the world as being a white concept, now it is no longer like this. The new Italy is not this and does not want to be this,” Italian-Haitian fashion designer and the Italian fashion council’s only Black member, Stella Jean, told Reuters.
“In Italy we have a racial problem and if we don’t start opening the wound in order to heal it, the wound will never heal,” Jean, who also mentored the spotlighted designers, added.
Major Italian fashion labels – including Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada – have been called out in the past for lacking diversity within their ranks and also faced public bashing for releasing racially insensitive clothing and accessories as well as campaigns. Jean, however, wants the country’s fashion industry to accept that change in attitude as well as inclusivity is indispensable.
“The new Italy is multicultural and it cannot permit itself to continue to appear racist in the eyes of the world as a result of the errors of a few, which in turn become a stigma for everyone,” she told The Guardian.
“Fashion lives on progressiveness and it simply cannot fall behind. Even a field like football that could hardly be regarded as avant-garde had the courage to admit that our country has a huge problem with racism … and they bravely implemented severe measures to work against it.”