ITALIAN HAITIAN FASHION DESIGNER
Stella Jean is an Italian Haitian designer, born and working in Rome. Jean grew up in a multicultural family, where art, fashion, and beauty were part of her daily life. Inspired by her elegant Haitian mother, her father is a Turin artist, who designs and creates high-end jewelry. Working first as a model for Egon Von Fürstenberg, Jean soon discovered her creative calling and has been creating her own designs since July 2011, when she won the Who’s On Next contest.
Debuting her own collection during Milan’s Fashion Week, Jean produced a sophisticated show in collaboration with the cutting-edge fashion trade show – White, in the beautiful location of the Rotunda Della Besana, Milan.
Stella Jean received an early endorsement from Giorgio Armani, who shared his show space and communications team with her in September 2013. With Italian and Haitian heritage, her work merges classical Italian tailoring with styles from other cultures.
She is a member of the Italian Chamber of Fashion and the only member of Afro-European background.
In an industry with a long-standing history of racial exclusivism and harsh environmental impact, Stella Jean has dared to challenge the status quo.
This fearless designer’s desire to represent her Haitian roots in a predominantly Eurocentric industry gave birth to the Stella Jean fashion brand. For Stella, otherwise known as Giorgio Armani’s protegee, fashion is not about appealing to high society and manipulating human beauty for financial gain. Rather, fashion is about showcasing the contributions and creativity of marginalized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) based on ecological practices. As such, a major principle of Stella’s company is ‘sustainability.’
The company’s slogan, “Multiculturalism Applied to Ethical Fashion,’ perfectly embodies everything Stella stands for. Multiculturalism is invalid if, in the longshot, vulnerable BIPOC communities are still being harmed. The use of multiculturalism for aesthetics easily treads the line of cultural appropriation. Stella, in contrast, ensures that her designs are created in a way that shields BIPOC communities in developing countries from exploitation and evades environmental degradation.
The self-taught designer was not always behind the runway. Stella Jean’s career began on the runway when she dropped out of the Sapienza University of Rome to model for Egon von Furstenberg. Soon after she realized that her calling was to create beautiful clothes rather than wear them. Stella then entered Vogue Italia’s “Who Is On Next” in 2011 where she won second place after having her applications denied two years in a row.
Despite winning second place, her early years as a designer were not easy. Fashion designer Giorgio Armani was in fact one of the first people to acknowledge her skill in 2013. She was given the opportunity to showcase her designs in the Armani/Teatro space during Milano Moda Donna for Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014. This opportunity also saw the birth of Stella’s passion for ethical fashion as she collaborated with the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative in the sourcing and merging of fabrics.
Stella Jean is undoubtedly an immense source of Caribbean pride. Though she may be Italian by nationality, her Haitian roots by way of her mother, are stronger than any trace of European genetics built into her cells. Her decision to use her mother’s maiden name for her brand in place of her surname ‘Novarino’ was done to represent her Caribbean heritage.
The model turned fashion designer has carved her own path in the Italian fashion industry and if you don’t think she’s unstoppable now, you will have no qualms about it when you hear headlines of her being ‘The first black woman to…’ or ‘The first woman of Haitian heritage to…’