Have you heard about Stella Jean? She’s the super cool Haitian-Italian designer who has been taking the fashion industry by storm in recent seasons.
Just last month at Milan Fashion Week, Giorgio Armani himself gave her his very public vote of confidence in her talent by allowing her to show her Spring/Summer 2014 collection at his famed showspace, the Armani Teatro. Aside from Armani himself, she is the first womenswear designer who has been allowed to show there – it’s kind of a huge deal!
“The new generation of Italian designers needs our support. It is for this reason that I continue to make my theatre on Via Bergognone available to them. Stella Jean will be the next designer to organise a fashion show at the Armani Teatro, and I hope this experience brings her luck.”
Style arbiters such as Suzy Menkes, the International Herald Tribune’s and Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozanni are reportedly fans of Jean as well.
So what has drawn them all to this 34 year old mother of two who got her fashion start as a model?
She didn’t have a charmed start – twice, she failed to qualify for the Italian designer contest Who Is On Next which identifies and supports new talent. It was some kind advice from the contest’s talent scout Simonetta Gianfelici that turned things around when she urged her to “be more sincere; do something that belongs only to you.”
Stella decided to merge her two cultures – her father is an Italian from Turin (her last name is Novarino) and her mother is Haitian. Jean told the Business of Fashion:
“I had struggled to find my identity. I found it through my work. I put my two worlds together and found fashion was looking for that.”
That revelation has produced what is becoming Stella Jean’s signature look inspired by her “Wax and Stripes” style philosophy – brightly coloured, ethically sourced African wax print fabrics mixed with stripes inspired by the menswear of the Italian dandy and a hint of retro shapes that evoke the prim and proper 1950s and early 60s.
Jean is vocal and proud about her Haitian heritage – in an interview with Kreyolicious, she notes that “in my collections, I just talk about me, my roots and Haiti’s historical metissages [interracial] journey.” Asked whether she was inspired by the style of another famed Haitian-Italian – Queen Marie Louise (wife of one-time Emperor Henri Christophe), she comments succinctly:
“Queens and princesses will never impress and inspire me much as slaves did.”