A couple of years ago I visited Tanzania and was immediately taken with the way Tanzanian women dress. Yards of brightly printed fabric were wrapped elegantly and effortlessly around their bodies for their daily activities. In a shop I stopped to purchase gifts and souvenirs, I was drawn to the piles of fabric that had captivated my eye during my stay in this country and had to bring some home with me.
Two seasons ago, while devouring shows on Style.com I discovered Stella Jean. I was instantly taken back to memories of the rich fabric and the draping, and was hooked. It was precisely the same colorful and wildly printed fabric I had seen previously on the women in Tanzania.
Stella Jean is a Rome-based womenswear designer with a background reflected in her designs. She has uniquely merged her two cultures, she is half-Haitian, half-Italian, not into her interpretation of one, but rather applied the specific fashion influences from Italy and Haiti via West Africa for her collection. What may not make sense on paper is executed in a way that beautifully reveals what happens when one attempts something so unexpected.
Giorgio Armani certainly agreed by choosing her to present her SS14 collection at his traditional show space Armani Teatro during Milan Fashion Week. She became the first womenswear designer to present there. Not only is this a gesture of support for Italy’s emerging designers, but also a show of support for a designer really doing something different. Jean has the ability to blend design elements of each culture in a very modern way. Labeling her vision “Wax & Stripes” each word represents a distinct part of her personal genetics and the origin of the fabric and design signatures she has become known for.
As an extension of her production process Jean supports the ethical fashion movement by fairly employing artisans of West Africa, specifically Burkina Faso. The vibrant colors and tailored, traditional silhouettes have gained a following from former editor and current influencer, Taylor Tomasi Hill and fashion-forward UK- based retailer, Matches. She is clearly making her mark and shaking up the expectation of the Italian fashion designer.
Images via WWD