The Business of Fashion Podcast
Stella Jean Asks ‘Do Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion?’

Stella Jean Asks ‘Do Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion?’

August 27, 2020

The Italian-Haitian designer and the only Black member of Italy’s Camera della Moda speaks to BoF Editor-in-Chief about racism within the country’s fashion industry.

LONDON, United Kingdom —  For designer Stella Jean, enough is enough. “It’s time to turn the page” and demand fashion reform, she said. Last month, alongside Milan-based designer Edward Buchanan, Jean issued letters to Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera della Moda, and to the organisation’s 14 executive members in what Jean described as “an historical appeal to bring to the forefront for the first time in our history, the paradoxical taboo topic of racism in Italy… and also to support Black designers who are still invisible in the business of Italian fashion.”
In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, Jean sat down with BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed to share her personal history growing up the daughter of a Haitian mother and Italian father, discuss the systemic racism within Italy’s fashion sector and focus on fostering change.
  • The self-taught designer, whose clothes have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna and Zendaya, called out fashion giants for making “performative gestures of public support” regarding racism in America, while simultaneously “overlooking what is happening to the Black minority in their own country among its workforce.” During the virtual call with Amed, Jean shared that she had received a letter from Capasa regarding the creation of a new unit in the Italian fashion council to tackle racism within the sector. Jean hopes that this will transform her question “do Black lives matter in Italian fashion?’” into the statement “Black lives matter in Italian fashion.”
  • In order to effect change, fashion leaders and executives must have an open discussion about what more can be done to boost diversity within their organisations, Jean said. While brands rushed to post black squares on social media, Jean urged leaders to first address the lack of diversity within their corporate structures. “[Brands] have long preached multiculturalism but have rarely applied such concepts beyond the media window… [and] in the spaces away from the spotlight where no one is watching,” she said. “[This is a] wound that we have ignored for far too long… If you don’t understand that awareness is the first step in solving the problem, this wound will never heal.”
  • For Jean, who founded the sustainable development initiative Laboratorio delle Nazioni, growing up in the 1980s “and struggling [with] being so diverse from [her] fellow citizens has motivated [her] to find a way to show people not to be afraid of different cultures and colours, but instead to see them… as a chance to grow better and together.” Jean recognises fashion as a tool that can offer fair and equitable opportunities for people in low-income countries. When Jean creates a collection she meets and works with various artisans in countries like Peru, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Mali or Pakistan for example, researching and learning about the local indigenous skills to then create a textile or garment, combining the country’s traditional craftsmanship with Italian design. “The beauty of fashion is it has no borders,” Jean said.

Related Articles:
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Op-Ed | Inclusivity Demands More Than a Show
Fashion's New Stella

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Tackling Systemic Racism in the Fashion Industry

Tackling Systemic Racism in the Fashion Industry

August 6, 2020

Harlem Fashion Row’s Brandice Daniel, Black in Fashion Council Co-Founder Sandrine Charles and creative consultant Henrietta Gallina on actionable anti-racism steps brands must take to move the industry forward.

 

NEW YORK, United States — The anti-racism protests that erupted across the US over the last two months have brought conversations around racism in the fashion industry to the fore. In the latest #BoFLIVE event, BoF’s Lauren Sherman spoke with Harlem Fashion Row Chief Executive Brandice Daniel, Sandrine Charles Consultancy Founder Sandrine Charles as well as brand and creative consultant Henrietta Gallina about combatting systemic racism in the fashion industry.
  • In order to implement meaningful change, brands must introduce clear, public goals for which they are accountable. Vague, performative messages will no longer suffice as employees and consumers put pressure on brands to deliver actionable progress. “When we talk about the problem, I always come back to equity and that’s what I’m striving for,” said Gallina. “We are no longer asking for the industry to support us, we are asking for the power structures to be rebuilt.”
  • Companies must be holistic in their approach when tackling racism in the workplace. “It absolutely starts at the leadership level and C-suite level,” Daniel said. “Black people have set the foundation for the fashion industry but we’ve never held leadership roles.” Hiring a D&I chief, while a step in the right direction, doesn’t hold much weight if anti-racism measures aren’t implemented throughout the business, both from the bottom up and the top down.
  • “What’s really important is that everyone else acknowledges where they have a privilege in this industry,” said Charles, who is also the co-founder of the Black in Fashion Council. “Moving forward, they also have to do the work.” Charles, Daniel and Gallina all underscored the importance of introspection and then action, particularly from white and non-Black people. Committed allies are a crucial step to moving the fashion industry forward. “It’s essential that we do the work with everyone because there are various spaces that we don’t have access to,” Charles said.
 
Related Articles:

 

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Special Edition: Silvia Venturini Fendi Will Surprise You

Special Edition: Silvia Venturini Fendi Will Surprise You

April 24, 2020

In the latest special edition of the BoF Podcast, Fendi Creative Director Silvia Venturini Fendi talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about everything from the future of smart clothing to the end of the fashion show as we know it.

 

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Special Edition: Li Edelkoort Says the Coronavirus Is a Representation of our Conscience

Special Edition: Li Edelkoort Says the Coronavirus Is a Representation of our Conscience

March 27, 2020

In the latest special edition of the BoF Podcast, the Dutch trend forecaster says that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing to light what is wrong with society, teaching us to slow down and to change our ways.

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Carine Roitfeld’s Remarkable Fashion Career | Inside Fashion

Carine Roitfeld’s Remarkable Fashion Career | Inside Fashion

March 20, 2020
The acclaimed stylist and editor, whose name has become synonymous with French style, talks to Imran Amed about how the industry has changed since her days at French Vogue, working with Karl Lagerfeld, becoming a brand and the importance of staying curious.

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The Rise of The Resale Economy | BoF VOICES

The Rise of The Resale Economy | BoF VOICES

February 14, 2020

Vestiaire Collective’s Max Bittner and Depop’s Maria Raga discussed the opportunities and growing pains of the burgeoning resale market at VOICES 2019.

To watch this talk at VOICES 2019 on our YouTube channel click here.

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Women Are at the Forefront of the Sustainable Fashion Revolution | BoF VOICES

Women Are at the Forefront of the Sustainable Fashion Revolution | BoF VOICES

January 17, 2020

At VOICES 2019, renowned fashion journalist and author Dana Thomas lifted the lid on how fast fashion is damaging the environment while championing the female pioneers blazing the trail and effecting real change.

To watch Dana's talk at VOICES 2019 on our YouTube channel click here.

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Eileen Fisher Reflects On 35 Years of Implementing Sustainable Thinking | Drive Season 2

Eileen Fisher Reflects On 35 Years of Implementing Sustainable Thinking | Drive Season 2

December 13, 2019

As a sustainability pioneer long before ‘sustainability’ became an industry buzzword, Eileen Fisher and her eponymous brand have been pushing the boundaries for decades. Here’s what she’s learned.

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Sandy Liang Takes Risks | Inside Fashion

Sandy Liang Takes Risks | Inside Fashion

November 15, 2019

The New-York based designer discusses the highs and lows of launching a label straight out of fashion school with BoF's Lauren Sherman.

 

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Reformation’s Yael Aflalo On Finding a Sustainable Focus | Drive Season 2

Reformation’s Yael Aflalo On Finding a Sustainable Focus | Drive Season 2

October 25, 2019

BoF meets Reformation Founder and CEO Yael Aflalo, who created her brand in 2009 around the idea of upcycling, after years of frustration battling with inefficiencies of the fashion wholesale system.

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