Milan Fashion Week: Stella Jean explores Cold War nostalgia

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Milan | Published: February 27, 2017 5:58:26 AM

The Haitian-Italian designer stuck to her winning formula of combining Italian tailoring with cultural inspirations.

Stella Jean waxes nostalgic for the Cold War in her latest collection. (Reuters)

While Giorgio Armani posed the question explicitly, Milan designers in general appear to be asking what will be remembered of this era’s fashions in decades to come. The answers were myriad on the fifth day of Milan Fashion Week, from provoking fun to exploring cultures to throwing off conventions and reimagining the future.

Here are some highlights from Sunday’s shows, including Marni and Stella Jean.

COLD WAR NOSTALGIA AT STELLA JEAN
Stella Jean waxes nostalgic for the Cold War in her latest collection. The Haitian-Italian designer stuck to her winning formula of combining Italian tailoring with cultural inspirations. This round, the United States and Russia faced off, with an army jacket standing in for Team USA and the humble head scarf, otherwise known as babushka, for Team Russia.

The reinterpreted military jackets included a long eco-mink and an army green waist coat with medals embroidered into the garment. The scarves were worn wrapped tightly around the head and topped with a woolen cap.

Rural Russian scenes were printed on the front of mini-cape dresses cinched across the chest or on the front of a long A-line skirt transformed into a strapless dress. “Maybe it is more pop,” Jean said of the headgear backstage. “It is a representative of a culture but not in a folkloric way” that she said would risk coming off as parody. “I can put a little irony on it, but not a parody,” she said.

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Hand-knitting is definitely a trend for the upcoming fall/winter season, an assertion of women’s power through creation. Stella Jean included sweaters, some with rural scenes or Russian iconography, knitted by women in quake-struck central Italy. “It shows the resilience of these women,” she said.

FROM SYRIA WITH LOVE
Stella Jean’s search for craftsmanship was not deterred by warzones. The collection included handbags created from inlaid wood backgammon boards made in Damascus and shipped by taxi to Beirut for the journey to Milan and onto the fashion runway.

The bags are the creation of Syrian couture designer Assad Khalaf, whose mother in Damascus made the small backgammon boards for him. Khalaf, 29, left Syria four years ago to study fashion, first in Milan and then Rome, where he completed a master’s degree in haute couture.

“It was actually a dream to do. It is the first thing that comes to mind to remember Syria, because wherever you go, you find these boards,” he said.

Jean said in her show notes that the goal of the project is to establish business “to disengage the pointless aid-dependent system,” and promote connections between Italy and Syria. She called the bags `’the megaphone of a culture that does not want to succumb.”

BEING MARNI
Marni’s new creative director, Francesco Risso, is keeping the kooky in the brand with bubble-wrap effects and balloon volumes. Risso said backstage that his aim is to infuse the brand with “fun and love, and allowing people to really enjoy themselves when they wear these clothes.

In his first womenswear collection as creative director, Risso varied the silhouettes from straight lines to balloon shapes, from simple sheaths to fluffy furs, with less of the architectural construction that defined the brand under founder Consuelo Castiglioni, who stepped down last fall.

The collection was richly textured. Japanese fabrics were treated with heat, creating floral bubbles, while silken nylon had the appearance of bubble wrap. Padded waxed cotton puffer jackets were both feathery light and sculptural.

More conventional silhouettes, like nubby sweaters with straight skirts, were dressed up with colorful furry wraps and shiny black caps with matching fur accents. Sequins covered straight dresses. Wisps of fur peeked out of the top of boots.

Risso titled the collection “Being,” short for `’the infinite ways of being,” and said his work is about freeing women from stereotypes.

“Marni has always been such a passion for me, always. I have been a client for so many years. I am embracing that passion that I have from the beginning,” Risso said.

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