Black Italian Designer Stella Jean Drops Out of Milan Fashion Week Due to Lack of Diversity

The Italian fashion council’s only Black designer has withdrawn from Milan Fashion Week due to a lack of commitment toward diversity and inclusion.

On Wednesday, Stella Jean and the We Are Made in Italy (WAMI) Collective announced their exit from this month’s fashion week that they were set to open with a digital presentation, USA Today reported. Jean also announced a hunger strike out of concern for the retaliation she believes other minority designers will suffer due to their associations with her.

Jean accuses the Italian National Fashion Chamber of cutting back support for the WAMI Collective, which was launched in 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement after she brought attention to the personal price she paid for calling out the racial injustice in Italy during a runway show last September.

“The chamber told us, ‘We didn’t know there were Italian designers who weren’t white.’ We brought them to the runway,” Jean said while interrupting the Chamber’s press conference, as noted by the Associated Press.

“They supported us for two years. Then we were abandoned.”

Italian Fashion Chamber President Carlo Capasa expressed his regret about Jean’s decision and assured her the chamber had no intention of retaliating in any way.

“Stella’s contribution has always been appreciated. We Italians need to have our conscience stimulated,” he said. “As for WAMI, we are not people who retaliate. For us it is important to promote new brands.”

The Chamber has plans to celebrate diverse creatives during Milan Fashion Week, which runs from February 21–27, with the inaugural edition of the Black Carpet Awards that recognizes the achievements of minority groups in Italy, as well as a diversity initiative by the owner and editor of U.S.-based Blanc Magazine, Teneshia Carr.

Jean made her Milan runway premiere in 2013 with Armani. The Haitian-Italian says that since speaking on racial injustice in the European country, she and her family have been subjected to retaliation in the form of death threats against her daughter and terminated professional relationships for the designer.

“When you speak of retaliations, of death threats, people, I work in fashion. I don’t traffic arms, I don’t traffic drugs or make money from trafficking women,” Jean said.

“It is absurd, vile, shameful and inhuman that I must speak for people who feel their lives are in danger, who feel they will suffer the same retaliation.”