Capasa said he hadn’t yet read the letter and was unaware of the hunger strike and WAMI’s withdrawal. Both Stella Jean and WAMI appeared on a draft of the Milan Fashion Week calendar of mostly womenswear previews for next winter released last month.
WAMI was launched on the heels of the Black Lives Matters movement in 2020 by Jean, African-American designer Edward Buchanan and the head of Afro Fashion Week Milano, Michelle Ngonmo, to draw attention to the lack of minority representation in the Italian fashion world. It followed some racial gaffes by major fashion houses that made global headlines.
Ngonmo told the AP that financial support for the project from the chamber had dwindled over the three years it has run so far, and that Afro Fashion Week Milano wasn’t able to come up with the 20,000 euros ($21,000) it would have cost to support the five young designers in making solid looks to present, plus a video.
The Italian fashion chamber fully supported the collections for the two WAMI classes, each with five designers, but that the third generation hasn’t received any funding from the chamber, Ngonmo and Jean said. The September show featuring Jean, Buchanan and WAMI was financed through other allies and their own contributions.
“Maybe the message is the whole industry needs to open their eyes and say what can we do to make that happen?” Ngonmo told the AP.