Stella Jean, who has been focused for years on building bridges between Italian design and the artisans in a range of developing and low income countries around the world, has created a collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, for the fall 2021 season.
In particular, the designer, who has been a vocal champion of the Black Lives Matter in Italian fashion movement, aimed at boosting multiculturalism within Italy’s fashion industry by teaming up with FAO’s Women’s Committee, as well as promoting female empowerment and the Mountain Partnership, United Nations’ voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world.
The result of this collaboration is a capsule collection of five pieces that Jean created with the Topchu Art Group, a group of artisans that produce embroidered carpets, wall hangings and silk and felt scarves located in Barskoon, a settlement at 1,750 meters elevation in the Northeastern part of Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia.
“I’ve known Stella for years and since what we are trying to do here at FAO is very in line with her ‘Laboratory of Nations’ project, I asked her to collaborate with us and she immediately jumped on the project,” said Cristina Alderighi, FAO Women’s Committee vice chair.
“Mountain Partnership was founded with the goal of supporting mountain population, while protecting their fragile environments. We started with food producers, but then we extended our attention to the textile sector and tourist services,” said Mountain Partnership’s project coordinator Giorgio Grussu. “When one of our colleagues came back with Kyrgyzstan with those silk and felt scarves we fell in love with them, we created special narrative labels for them and we certified them. And we started thinking with Cristina what to do to really support the business of the artisans behind.”
After an extensive study of the region, its culture and the artifacts produced there, Jean started designing some styles that would fit the embroidering techniques of the female artisans of the Topchu group, which was founded with the support of the Mountain Partnership. In Italy, the designer created the patterns for two skirts, a coat and a shirt, sourced the fabrics, which were cut and then shipped to Kyrgyzstan, where they were embroidered and then assembled in Italy.
“We are giving these artisans all the patterns and the instructions to create the garments in order to promote their independence and emancipation,” said Jean, who also revealed that she will reinvest her royalties from the sales of the garments back into the project.
According to Jean, these types of collaborations also highlight sustainable techniques originally rooted in circular economy. “Corporations are investing huge amounts of money to find new sustainable solutions, when they should just consider to adopt antique and natural ones. The money they would save could be easily invested in boosting the local economies of the groups providing them.”