Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the game of soccer may sound like improbable bedfellows, but it turns out both are treasured in Myanmar, where the local variant on the sport is called chinlone.
Stella Jean’s spring collection nodded to the connection by pairing graphic soccer jerseys with tea dresses in vintage-inspired prints. Pointing to her inspiration board backstage, she noted that even Buddhist monks play football. “This is an incredible social and cultural aggregator,” she said.
There was a softer side than usual to her trademark cultural mash-ups. Asian-inspired prints of herons, swans and fish in delicate shades of pink, rust and eau-de-nil brought to mind a faded postcard view of Southeast Asia in its colonial heyday. Jean paired them with shirting stripes and athletic ribs to give them a modern spin, showing the outfits alongside a smattering of men’s looks.
A blue-and-white soccer shirt was tucked inside a floor-length white skirt with colorful fish embroidered at the waist, while an olive-green patterned silk dress, featuring a captain armband on one sleeve, was overlaid with a pale-pink botanical-print wrap skirt and worn with soccer cleats.
Jean noted that Suu Kyi wore traditional blouses and sarongs throughout her years of house arrest. “She never needed to dress herself like a man or show her masculine side, but she’s one of the most powerful and strong women, and she’s also a fashion icon,” she said. “She used it like a flag of where she comes from.”
The designer nodded to her own Haitian roots with a seashore print inspired by the paintings of Préfète Duffaut.
Underscoring the melting-pot vibe, the show — held in the historic Sala delle Cariatidi opposite Milan’s Duomo — featured a live performance by a group led by Cuban singer and violin player Yilian Cañizares. Their cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” had showgoers glued to their seats well after Jean took her bow.