Stella Jean: Wax & Stripes

A personal journey

She works together with women from Burkina Faso and combines their authentic West African weaving traditions and prints with Italian elegance and craftsmanship. Designer Stella Jean tells a personal story with her collection herewith she touches the highest echelons of the international fashion world. Last september, she was invited by none other than Giorgio Armani – it is rumoured on advice of Suzy Menkes and Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani – to participate in the official schedule of the Milan Fashion Week and show her eclectic collection in his Armani Teatro.

Stella Jean stands out with a spectacular mix of materials, prints, colors and bold shapes, a visual language that originates  from the multi-cultural background of the designer. Jean herself describes the philosophy of her label as ‘wax and stripes’, in which the African wax textiles refer to the Haitian roots of her mother (in the 17 century was Haiti repopulated with hundreds of thousands of slaves from Africa, red.) and the masculine stripes to her Italian father. About the fusion of contrasting cultures Jean tells in an interview with the British Vogue: ‘Fashion can be used as a cultural translator and a tool against colonisation; it re-establishes the balance between symbols, stories and different worlds through style. Being part of a multiracial family in Italy in the Eighties not only shaped me as a person, but also inspired my professional path-however, it has been neither simple nor painless.  Fashion gave me ample space to manoeuver and find a place where both of these cultures could coexist. This weak point became both a strength and a fresh start.’ Stella Jean was born in Rome thirty-four years ago and still lives there. After

studying classical languages she worked as a model, but felt only really at home in this world during the fittings in the design studios. She starts designing herself and wins the Who’s On Next of Vogue Italia talent show in 2011. After a presentation in collaboration with the tradefair White, she is discovered by the Ethical Fashion Initiative, an organization that connects the fashion industry and artisans in Africa and Haiti to fight poverty and to keep craft traditions alive. A goal that Jean completely emphasizes, as evidenced by an interview with Suzy Menkes in the The New York Times: ‘I think we can’t just do beautiful clothes that so many people do better. I have to give a message that can reach so many people around the world. No more frontiers, no more borders. It can’t be acceptable any more.’ When Stella Jean received the invitation of Mister Armani she tought somebody was fooling her.It was the first time that the master opened his, designed by Tadao Ando, theatre for another designer of womenswear. Extremely grateful Jean  addresses the word to famous fashion houses in her interview with Vogue UK: ‘Keep trusting emerging designers, as giants such as Giorgio Armani and  Vogue  Italy are doing now as never before. Armani is a great example of how a designer who made fashion history can provide concrete support to new generations.’ How important it is that well known names support new talent is shown again by Stella Jean since she sells her collection really successfully at important retailers like Moda Operandi, Matches Fashion and the Corner. On the question of Vogue if mentor Armani has given her advice Jean answers: ‘To not be afraid to keep my DNA and its uniqueness and not to follow the mainstream’? Yes!



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