/ CONVERSATION 2022 /
CONVERSATION “BLACK CREATIVITY IN FASHION”
The fashion designer and activist Stella Jean, in dialogue with Gessica Généus, producer, film director and actress, Edward Buchanan and Michelle Ngonmo, co-founders of WAMI, curator of the Festival Gloria Maria Cappelletti and the founder and director Constanza Cavalli Etro, to address cultural representation in the fashion world, raising issues and reflecting on possible solutions to improve the system.
Stella Jean, fashion designer
Stella Jean is an Italian designer. Recognized as the first Black Italian designer. The basis of Jean’s work is multiculturalism applied to ethical fashion, resulting in a cultural fusion of her own métisse identity. Her work often merges classical Italian tailoring with stylistic features of varying cultures. Stella Jean created the business model and sustainable development platform: “Laboratorio delle Nazioni”. In 2019 she was highlighted by the New York Times as the most convincing of all the New Gen designers in Milan.
Through missions on the field, each SJ collection is the result of the construction of a cultural bridge between Italian design and the women artisans of a developing country during each different season. An international cooperation between Jean’s aesthetic and the artisans of developing countries is an ever present staple of her designs, which aim to promote cultural heritage as an enabler and a driver of sustainable development. Jean’s past LDN missions have included Peru, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, Pakistan and others expeditions in South America, Africa and Asia.
Stella Jean is the first and only Italian fashion designer to take to the stage at a BLM protest (this took place in June of 2020) and to, in her own words, publicly denounce the existence of racial discrimination within the country of Italy.
In February 2021, Stella Jean along with Michelle Ngonmo and Edward Buchanan, founded WAMI. For the first time in the history of Italian fashion, the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (CNMI) has set up a work group comprised of Afro-Italian professionals: WAMI – We Are Made in Italy. As of today, it is an official work group of the Italian Fashion Council. WAMI’s goal is to work to eliminate every form of discrimination against the Black community, and any minority in the country, regardless of origin, religion or cultural background.
Gessica Généus, director
Gessica Généus is an actress, singer and director from Haiti. She began her career when she was 17 years old. After the earthquake in 2010, she became actively involved in the reconstruction of her country and she started working for the United Nations. She then won a scholarship to study at Acting International in Paris. She returned to Haiti and created her own production company, Ayizian Productions, to develop her own work.
Between 2014 and 2016 she directed Vizaj Nou, a series of short portraits of major figures from contemporary Haitian society. In 2017, her documentary film Douvan jouka leve (The Day Will Dawn) won eight awards. It continues to be shown around the world.
Freda is her first feature film that premiered in 2021 in “un certain regard” at the Cannes film festival.
Michelle Francine Ngonmo, co-founder WAMI
Originally from Cameroon, Michelle Ngonmo arrived in Italy as a child and soon discovered she was fascinated by the world of communication, going on to take a first- level degree in multimedia and audio-visual communication and a second level degree in modern languages. After a number of internships abroad, including experience at the Ministry of Culture in Brussels and the University of Cameroon, Michelle Ngonmo returned to Italy to work as press office for the first multicultural web-network, ALLTV. In 2015, Ms Ngonmo founded Afro Fashion, a cultural association of fashion which today has more than eighty members and holds an invaluable database of more than 1000 Afro designers all over the world, with a satellite location in Cameroon. Michelle Francine Ngonmo is a talent scout of excellence for the present and future Afro designers in Italy and abroad and an expert creator of events such as the Afro Fashion Week Milan which she has directed and presented for seven years now. Ms Ngonmo is involved in various cultural projects as director of All-TV, and is President of the Association of African students of Ferrara. She coordinates the fashion project CAMon! in Cameroon. She has been and still is a speaker at numerous events and is a visiting professor in Italian and foreign universities. she founded together with Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan the Movement “Do Black Lives Matter In Italian Fashion?”; she developed and organized the project, “Made in Italy is not a color: we are made in Italy,” an ongoing series of exhibitions and buying opportunities to valorize the work of BIPOC/BAME designers. She is also the founder of the unseen profiles platform and she is the coordinator of the LABA DOUALA’s Fashion Design department (Laba Douala is the only Academy of Fine Arts & Fashion in the Central Africa).