Stella Jean is a testament to how fashion, beyond aesthetics, can evolve into an instrument of counter-colonisation and become a vehicle for, and expression of, economic, social and ethical growth and enfranchisement.
Stella Jean is the Italian-Haitian designer whose multicultural roots have made her collections one of the coveted in fashion. Challenging the industry, Stella combines a strong ethnicity and sense of place with a boundary-less brand of glamour. She elegantly takes African prints and cuts them into euro-chic dresses.
Stella collaborates with African and Haitian artisans, based on the principle of increase in value, economic impact and respect for the territory, resources and traditions of the local communities who must be supported, while at the same time preserving ancestral knowledge – at risk of extinction – and opposing the debasing effect of imperialist homogenisation.
All of this is aimed at generating commercial enterprise and self-sustaining local communities, highlighting the women’s driving force by fostering awareness and pride in their resources, and triggering a mechanism of independence that dismantles the ruinous aid-dependent system. Women who can support their children and make decisions that will bring them outside their planned path of subordination. The emphasis is placed on the fact that real sustainability is not sourced externally but, with the proper organisational support, is born within each village and a new sense of dignity is conferred globally.
Stella’s travels have taken her from Burkina Faso to her beloved Haiti to develop parts of her collections, with the aim to observe, listen and change, through fashion, the mystified perception of these countries. At the heart of her collections is social production, based on the application of collective knowledge and organised around a bottom-up approach in which each individual, each artisan, contributes according to their abilities, skills and means, is designed to eliminate the relegation of the third world workforce offshore.
Stella Jean Spring Summer 16 Runway
The Stella Jean Spring/Summer 2016 runway presentation (my favourite) took place in Milan, at the recently opened cultural centre, Museo delle Culture (Museum of Cultures), she offered her vibrant take on multiculturalism. Stella Jean drew on her mixed heritage and for this collection drew on imagery from Seirra Leone film Once Upon A Time In America, the colours and textures of Brazilian carnivals and then the fabrics of West Africa.