Stella Jean, herself a fruit of the cross-pollination of Italian and Haitian cultures, addressed the Italian migratory past and present through her spring summer women's collection. Where yesterday's youths crossed the Atlantic to fuel the industrial boom of the Americas, today the country's tech-bred youngsters are flocking to new cities of opportunity: the tech startup capitals of Berlin and London.
More confident than her ancestors who battled discrimination, sickness and poverty, Jean's woman for spring summer was draped in working girl meets Bahia mamma ensembles of bow collar blouses paired with bright aprons. Despite her loud striped ruffles and her exotic fruit patterned bell sleeve jackets, an echo of sadness rang out as we were reminded that with any new beginning one leaves their roots and family behind.
Backstage, Jean stood before inspiration boards covered in photos of Italian emigrants from the turn of the 20th century.
"We pretend like we are different from these people but we aren't," Jean said, noting that the influx of refugees arriving on European shores was a concern when envisaging her collection. "Instead of buying a low cost ticket for 15 euros, these refugees are relegated to paying 5000. We need to find a solution," Jean continued.
Made with hand-loomed cotton fabric from Burkina Faso, linen, macramé, knitted fabric, Sangallo lace, raffia and silk, the collection had a hand-crafted soul. Wildly-printed leather totes were made by artisans in Ethiopia while tassels and pom-pom appliqués conjured the mountain scenery of the Peruvian Andes that attracted so many Italians in the first part of the 20th century.
Staying true to her sartorial-meets-ethno pop ethos, Jean's spring summer collection was crafted with Saville Row technique celebrated by the sartorial heartland of Naples. London, Jean said, is also a symbol of escape and opportunity for new generations of expats on the run from a declining system and in search of good fortune.
"In the past, that meant crossing over to Ellis Island and today it's the online check-in to Gatwick."