MILAN — Milan Fashion Week is increasingly becoming a launchpad for international designers, but the main goal of the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion Collective — which includes designers Stella Jean, Edward Buchanan and Michelle Francine Ngonmo, founder of the Afro Fashion Association — is to highlight how people of color are an integral part of the Made in Italy ecosystem.
Shows at Milan Fashion Week will officially kick off today with the “We Are Made in Italy” digital presentation, now in its third iteration. This time it will showcase the fashion collection of five female talents based in Italy but hailing from different countries, including Haiti, India and Morocco to name a few.
Jean and Buchanan have been actively tutoring and mentoring the designers taking part in the September edition also from a creative standpoint and their work is to be highlighted via a video filmed by Antonio Dikele DiStefano, the writer and filmmaker behind the Netflix series “Zero.”
Here are the five talents spotlighted by the “We Are Made in Italy” project.
Brand: Judith Saint Germain
Designer: Judith Borsetto
Background: A creative of Haitian descent currently based in Italy, Borsetto studied at Treviso’s IUAV and soon thereafter opened her stylistic consultancy JBTF, while concurrently training her creativity on a range of women’s accessories, which made her think about developing a namesake line. For it she chose to use her original surname Saint German, a testament to her bond with her country of origin.
Spring 2022: Offering a range of women’s footwear styles crafted from supple Italian leather and other fabrics, and developed with a Pisa, Italy-based manufacturing company, she decorated square-toed boots with laser-like 3D effects, and ruched sandals with sculptural heels. Borsetto worked a color combination that nods to the Haitian flag, and also belts and jewels bearing gold-plated silver charms in the shape of her initial.
Brand: Sheetal Shah
Designer: Sheetal Shah
Background: A designer who started her fashion training in India’s western city of Ahmadabad, Shah moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins, where she graduated with a BA in textile design. Incidentally she was offered her first internship in Italy, where she expanded her textile design and sartorial skills first in the silk district of Como and then in Naples.
Spring 2022: With a strong penchant for fabric manipulation, Shah delivered a collection that pushes the boundaries of gender, largely employing one of the most democratic of textiles: denim. Twisting it and elevating its everyday use via sartorial silhouettes with a workwear inflection, she managed to inject her Indian background via the use of colorful shantung and silks. The collection is also rich in recycled materials, a reflection on the ongoing issue with clothing waste which is particularly urgent in low-income countries.
Brand: Nyny Ryke Goungou
Designer: Nyny Ryke Goungou
Background: A Togo native designer, Goungou graduated from Milan’s NABA with a degree in fashion and textiles before continuing her studies in Milan and Paris, where she mastered in lingerie-making and corsetry at the Formamod institute.
Spring 2022: Aptly naming her spring collection “Ethical Chic,” Goungou pointed to the use of responsible materials, as well as manufacturing techniques inspired by the traditions of her native country. After establishing a close business relationship with artisans based in Togo, she experimented with the Kentè League handwoven fabric, which boasts multiple patterns in bright colors coupled with geometric shapes and gallant shipshape designs. The designer also patented her own take on the traditional Yoruba fabric, crafted from linen and the first Stretch Kentè textile obtained by adding stretch threads. She worked her textiles into a collection that referenced her passion for Japanese culture with kimono-style long dresses, all the while offering her modern take on traditional African fabrications.
Brand: Romy Calzado Celda
Designer: Romy Calzado Celda
Background: A Cuban native now based in the small town of Pavia, south of Milan, Calzado Celda studied at the Burgio Fashion Institute, where she currently holds the role of teacher for the Palermo unit. She developed a passion for textiles and prints during her experience at Etro, the Italian house known for its boho-chic attitude.
Spring 2022: Mindful of the times and in tune with customers’ demand for protective and antiviral fabrics, Calzado Celda explored the most advanced textile technologies, teaming up Directa Plus, a Como, Italy-based nanotechnology company which provided the graphene-coated denim largely employed throughout the collection. The latter was used for apron-style midi dresses with round skirts peppered with diamond patterns, while jacquard rompers in the same motif exuded a childlike spirit.
Brand: Zineb Hazim
Designer: Zineb Hazim
Background: Moroccan-born Hazim stretched her muscles in Italy working for several fashion companies until she decided to deliver a collection that could answer her needs as a businesswoman and her Muslim origins. By reinterpreting the Islamic aesthetics, the designer is committed to give Muslim women a voice through her fashion creations.
Spring 2022: In a quite literal but effective reference, Hazim played with Prince of Wales motifs seen throughout her spring collection, which she contrasted with popsicle-colored accents of yellow, fuchsia and peacock blue. Statement coats, high-waisted pleated pants and suiting with cropped pants looked great on grown-up ladies who seemed not yet ready for adult life.