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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Stella Jean: Portrait Versus Mask

A rare Italian cultural mix, linking Europe with sub-Saharan Africa

11 Марта 2016

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear
Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

The emotion started before the show, as gospel singers lined up at one end of the ancient Milanese building, their soulful voices reproducing the original 1990s version of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. That alone – plus the cultural mix of Stella Jean’s background, so rare in Italian fashion – would have been enough to excite the audience.

But the designer has finally reached the point where she can use her background and knowledge to create a mash-up that looks modern. Let’s start with the shoes. Only a few seasons ago her models were tottering on inappropriate footwear. Now, flats – often with an African feel – predominated on the catwalk.

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Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


They were sometimes shown inside sheer plastic, which I assumed to be an African tradition, not a clairvoyant vision of Milan’s soaking rain. Stella Jean was brought up with European visual clichés, so her skill was to take bold African patterns and work their rhythm into Western looks. Bold coats, well-cut jackets, and skirts were from a colonial lady’s fashion closet. But these tailored garments looked as spiffy with fragments of African patterns as did the knits.

The designer’s complex show notes, mentioning a successful collaboration with London-based jeweller Elisabetta Cipriani, focused mainly on the diversity that came together in her fashion mind. It was an idea about the old colonial and sub-Saharan continent merging - including Africa’s influence on artists from Modigliani to Picasso. Stella Jean’s success story is in melding the tribal and wearable. And her choir added an extra layer of emotion.

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Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Stella Jean, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


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