Five Female Designers of Color Returning to Milan Fashion Week

Martino Carrera (WWD) writes about the We Are Made in Italy digital showcase, which featured five female designers of color in Milan Fashion Week (February 22-28). He highlights Judith Borsetto (born Judith Saint Jermain in Haiti), Romy Calzado (Cuban-born), Zineb Hazim (Morocco), Nyny Ryke Goungou (Togo), and Sheetal Shah (India). Here are excerpts centering on Borsetto and Calzado.

Building on last September’s success of the We Are Made in Italy, or WAMI, showcase of fashion professionals of color, Milan Fashion Week kicks off Wednesday by spotlighting five familiar faces.

Organized by the Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion collective jump-started in 2020 by designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan along with Afro Fashion Association’s president Michelle Francine Ngonmo, the digital showcase spotlights the same five female talents it featured last season. The goal is to offer greater visibility to them and other Black, Indigenous and designers of color in Italian fashion to raise their international profiles and celebrate their achievements.

To be sure, all five talents acknowledged how the display boosted their business one way or another, helping them earn recognition from the press and celebrities and even providing them with enough confidence to turn their fashion ventures into full-time jobs.

Backed by the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, which has acted as the launchpad for several international designers, the WAMI format is helping to push forward Italian fashion’s diversity, equity and inclusion plans.

Ahead of the unveiling of their fall collections via video livestreamed on Milan Fashion Week’s official digital platform, WWD caught up with the five designers amid fittings and model castings.

Brand: Romy Calzado

Designer: Romy Calzado

Background: A Cuban native with a penchant for textile design, Calzado landed a job in fashion after attending the Burgo Fashion Institute, where she holds the role of teacher for the Palermo school. She developed a passion for prints during her experience at Etro. She launched her brand to express her creativity, but admitted feeling more like an artist who can “navigate and express myself through different media, even outside fashion.”

Brand ethos: “I want to debunk the misconception that a tropical or Caribbean designer should always tap into florals and prints and more generally into a flamboyant aesthetic,” said Calzado, who is committed to spotlighting her native country and its culture in more nuanced ways.

Fall 2022: Titled “Cosmic Beauty,” the collection takes cues from futuristic atmospheres with strong and pointy shouldered frocks, crafted from graphene-enhanced jerseys developed by Directa Plus. They are sometimes peppered with leather inserts and knot and ribbon embellishments nodding to the artworks of Peruvian artist Jorge Eduardo Eielson, who described the knots he featured in his work as symbols of interconnection between fields such as art, nature and science. More everyday options include short dresses with poet sleeves.

[. . .]

Brand: Judith Saint Jermain

Designer: Judith Borsetto

Background: A creative of Haitian descent based in Italy, Borsetto studied at Treviso’s IUAV and soon thereafter opened her style consultancy JBTF, while concurrently turning her creativity to a range of women’s accessories, which made her think about developing a namesake line. For it she chose to use her original surname Saint Jermain, a testament to her bond with her country of origin. Since participating in “The Fab Five Bridge Builders” showcase in September, she admitted her visibility has risen and she has received praise from Italian and international celebrities.

Brand ethos: An accessories designer who specializes in footwear, Borsetto typically injects bold and flamboyant details into her sculptural shoes, which she is adapting for handbags and ready-to-wear pieces, the latter a small capsule collection of three knit dresses.

Fall 2022: For fall, Borsetto worked her signature aesthetics of ruffled and scalloped hems, sculptural shapes and Pop-tinged colors into a three-pronged collection including trapeze-heeled shoes crafted from supple leather and pony hair or stocking boots matching the three knitwear frocks she introduced as part of her offering. The latter are sensual styles with side slits and deep V-necks bearing jacquard monogrammed patterns. She went minimalist for handbags with asymmetric handles and V-shaped indentations on the bottom. [. . .]

[Shown above: Fashion by Judith Saint Jermain.]

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