By Neddie Clews / Matthew staff || Edited by Leila Baez
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Italian fashion begins its attempt to fight racism and discrimination within the industry. Five selected women of color designers have now been featured in two of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI)’s most recent Milan Fashion Weeks.
Previously, until 2020, it was evident that Italian runway fashion lacked a sense of diversity in both designers and models. In an initiative started last fall by We Are Made in Italy, with a partnership with the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion collective and promoted by the Afro Fashion Association, five selected designers of color were able to return to last week’s fashion show.
The Afro Fashion Association was started in 2015 by Michelle Ngonmo. Born in Cameroon, she eventually relocated to Italy where her organization has been organizing various events and activities throughout the country. Most notably, they are responsible for promoting the Afro Fashion Week Milan, having just featured its seventh edition of the show last week. As a nonprofit volunteer led organization, it has worked to complete their main three goals of promoting BIPOC talents and African brands, influencing industry standards, and encouraging investment in Afro fashion.
An interview with Vouge Ngonmo describes her drive for creating AFA: ““When you live in a society that always reminds you from where you came, you have no choice but to celebrate your roots. You have to embrace your ‘double culture’ and make it a point of strength and pride.”
In 2020, designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan worked with Ngonmo to get in touch with CNMI president Carlo Capasa, where together they created We Are Made in Italy (WAMI). WAMI is now a team of BIPOC fashion professionals who advocate for diversity within the Italian fashion industry, responsible for promoting and supporting BIPOC Italian designers.
Since its creation, five BIPOC designers selected from around the world have now premiered in both the CNMI’s September Spring/Summer 2021 and February’s women’s Fall/Winter 2022 Milan Fashion Week shows.
Meet the designers:
Started by Indian designer Sheetal Shah in 2020, she uses her roots and experiences in the textile industry in Italy to produce a 70s inspired eco-friendly style.
After quitting her job in Italy, Moroccan-born Zineb Hazim started her fashion career attempting to rebrand many of the negative stereotypes that are faced by muslim women.
Originally launched in 2016 in Togo, Nyny Ryke Goungou works with companies from her home to create her “ethnic nostalgia” 80s inspired look.
Through use of solid colors and geometric shapes, Romy Calzado defies her Cuban Caribbean roots’ stereotypes to produce an almost futuristic space-age design.
Accessory and shoe designer Judith Borsetto, from Haiti, uses her Italian based brand to carry out a classy but unique style.
This is Just the Begining
Though this is just a start to creating a truly diverse community within Italian fashion, it has already gained a large amount of support in just the past two years. The Afro Fashion Association offers a wide range of services help educate the Italian community, including working with various schools and universities around the country. This is just the beginning of global influence in Italian fashion where, in the future, through the continuation of education, involvement of more fashion executives, and community engagement, more diversity can finally be implemented into this widely celebrated industry. This is just the beginning of global influence in Italian fashion, where in the future, through the continuation of education, involvement of more fashion executives, and community engagement more diversity can finally be implemented into this widely celebrated industry.
Check out a list of their services and sign up for the Afro Fashion Association Newsletter! Click here.