Milan Fashion Week

MILAN — The Italian fashion industry is giving voice to five designers who reflect its multicultural structure.

In collaboration with the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion Collective, Italy’s Camera della Moda will present the “We Are Made in Italy” project that will highlight the work of five Italian designers of color, mentored by Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan. The digital event will take place during Milan Fashion Week on Sept. 27, revealed Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera, on Thursday.

“The Fab Five Bridge Builders” will show their spring 2021 collections as a unique collective of Black-owned Made in Italy businesses — the first of many events set to define the future of Italian fashion, observed Capasa.

“When Stella Jean came to us with this idea, we quickly embraced it,” Capasa told WWD. “We were thrilled to be able to include this content, to offer an opportunity and be increasingly more inclusive.”

As reported, Jean last month felt frustrated by the Camera’s response to her request for a deeper commitment to fight racism and support Black designers in Italy, although Capasa at the time defended the association’s actions over the years to promote inclusivity and diversity. On Thursday he reiterated this concept and the fashion body’s commitment but was ready to turn the page and look ahead. “We are always open to new proposals to interpret the future and offer opportunities and who better than Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan to spearhead this kind of initiative?” he said.

“If mistakes have been made, let’s try to correct them,” continued Capasa, while expressing his belief “that the fashion industry is not one to focus on skin color, race, gender or sexuality. If you ask me whether people of color have always had the same opportunities, I think things can be improved, and the fashion industry is working to guarantee a plurality of voices.”

In a phone interview, Jean was equally upbeat and forward-looking. “I am very happy about this opening from the Camera and desire to change things, to write a new page.”

While keeping the names of the designers under wraps to allow them to work “without pressure,” she clarified that they are Italian, as she is, but with different cultural backgrounds. “We want to debunk the idea that Made in Italy is all-white, and this project will reflect Italy’s multicultural reality, offering them visibility. It’s a human and social signal and it’s a historical step. It will help to show that Italy has a new face and that it does not want to be racist. These designers’ motto is: We are made in Italy and made in Italy is made of us.”

The designers were discovered by Afro Fashion Week in Milano founder Michelle Ngonmo, said Jean. The Camera is also actively financially supporting the production of the video, said Capasa.

The Camera in 2019 released its first “Inclusion and Diversity Manifesto” and during the past digital fashion week in July it launched the Digital Creatives of Color in Italy project, aimed at raising awareness about the necessity of inclusion in the sector. In collaboration with the British Fashion Council, Capasa invited Black designer Samuel Ross to show his A-Cold-Wall fall 2021 collection in Milan and, for the second time, the brand will present digitally in the city on Sept. 23.

The official Milan Fashion Week calendar was released on Thursday, as Capasa praised the “very courageous” decision of its members to go ahead with the event, showcasing spring 2021 presentations and collections for a total of 64 fashion shows, of which 23 will be physical, and 61 will be presentations, of which 24 will be digital, in the days running from Sept. 22 to 28.

While there were no major surprises, given that the news of Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Prada going digital had already been released before the Camera’s digital press conference, Capasa spoke of another new timely project.

After the initiatives “China we are with you” and “Italia we are with you,” the Chamber is launching “Spotlight on Lebanese Designers — CNMI in support of the new generation of Lebanese Talent,” as a sign of solidarity with the Lebanese population, following last month’s explosion in Beirut. The seven designers and brands that will digitally take part in Milan Fashion Week are: Azzi & Osta, Boyfriend the Brand, Emergency Room, Hussein Bazaza, L’Atelier Nawbar and Roni Helou.

The Camera has also issued its updated Fashion Economic Trends study, estimating a 29 percent decrease in 2020 revenues for Italy’s fashion industry. Sales are expected to fall to 47.78 billion euros compared with 2019. Exports are forecast to decline 28 percent to 39.5 billion euros.

The second quarter was especially tough, dragging down sales in the first half by 30 percent compared with the first half last year.

The study related a worsening of the scenario compared to the forecasts provided by the Fashion Economic Trends in early July, given the ongoing uncertainties and the new clusters of contagion in several countries.

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