HFM at Milan Fashion Week: Day 5


The Dolce & Gabbana invitation was a bit of a giveaway: press it in the right place and you heard Cinderella singing A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.

And Disney's fairy tale world of fantasy was perfect territory for the Italian design duo. Arriving at the Metropole Theatre, we were met by the evil stepmother's mirror from Snow White, Cinderella's pumpkin, and Aladdin's magic carpet.


Inside, the set had been dressed by La Scala's Angelo Scala, and included the gilded bed from the famous opera house's production of Sleeping Beauty. The collection was full of exquisitely-embroidered dresses, fit for a princess, while Prince Charming appeared as a modern girl in a succession of elaborately embellished military tail-coats over cropped trousers.

And, of course there was a happy ending: the 95 models - yes, 95 - paraded in identical sequinned shifts in shades of soft rose to sugar-pink.


Stella Jean, one of the most original designers showing at Milan Fashion Week, contrasted the ancestor masks of sub-Saharan Africa with the portrait culture of the Old Masters, in a vibrant, cross-cultural caravanserai of a collection, rich with artisanal detail, ethnic jewellery-sculpture, and traditional handcrafts. To the strains of a gospel choir from Kenya singing Gangsta's Paradise, the models paraded in the columned splendour of the Arengario museum in the Piazza dell Duomo, wearing maxis and skirts in rainbow hues, ornamented with pearls, beads and feathers; tunics featuring bibs and collars embroidered with African masks or printed with family portraits; and sweaters in Ndebele patterns or knitted with an in-built Masai neckpiece.


Stella Jean

To reinforce the culturally hybrid nature of the collection, Jean mixed in coated cotton trenches, woollen duffle coats and trousers with side stripes inspired by the Italian carabinieri uniforms. That the clothes worked as both brilliantly styled ensembles and as individual pieces is a tribute to the sensitivity with which Stella Jean draws on her Italian-Creole roots. The clothes were accessorised with unusual jewellery from the Elisabetta Cipriani Gallery in London, and plexiglass and feather clutches made in Haiti in collaboration with the Kenyan-American designer Muthiga.

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