In 2020, Milan Fashion Week designed a showcase that aimed to bring inclusivity back into the Italian cultural event.
“We are made in Italy” was a showcase that highlighted five Italian designers of color. It was the result of an effort to stem issues of racism and diversity in the Italian fashion system and culture.
Italian society still deals with cultural problems like racism and xenophobia. The Italian fashion system specifically has many examples of this.
RACISM IN ITALY
Although there is still racism everywhere, Italian society has had trouble coming to terms with inclusivity and diversity.
In an interview with Vogue, one of the five designers said, “I’m not afraid of racism in Italy. What I’m afraid of is paternalism — it’s worst than racism.”
A paternalistic attitude means that in Italy as a Caucasian-European, one has the right to teach other races what to do, what’s right and what’s wrong, and that they as POC must listen to and follow the Caucasian-European’s rules, the designer says.
Shaheen Ghamari, Apparel and Merchandising Fashion major at Colorado State University, said in an interview that if you simply Google “Italian models,” you’ll only see Caucasian-European females and males. There is very little representation of people of color in Italian magazines or fashion systems.
The Guardian says there are many reasons for Italy’s continued racism, such as how it is an “incredibly provincial country.” Through the centuries Italy has been “a colony, a plaything of the superpowers. So with the exception of small parts of Somalia, no other country speaks Italian.”
There are many reasons for the stemmed growth of inclusivity and diversity in Italian culture. However, there are many efforts being made to create long-term and effective change in Italian society.
EFFORTS OF INCLUSIVITY
Racism is everywhere within fashion systems. Ghamari states it is “rampant everywhere, especially with models.”
Michelle Francine Ngonmo has helped broaden Italy’s inclusivity and fashion landscape. Ngonmo founded a nonprofit and volunteer-based organization called the Afro Fashion Association in 2015.
The platform grants access and visibility to a wider pool of talents. It is for cross-cultural exchange and gives potential to emerging designers of color.
Since being created, the association has organized workshops, exhibitions and events as well as promoted Fashion Week Milan to scout talent. Ngonmo selected five designers to showcase their art and fashion as well as receive mentorship to expand their brand and skills.
In her interview with Vogue, she said, “I thought, why not create a platform to make those talents visible and heard, a place where their work can be seen? That’s how I started my fashion scouting in Italy. It has been a rather complex process. My research has involved not only POC but people from different ethnicities and backgrounds.”
Associations and people like this that aim to broaden inclusivity in the fashion world are very important for places like Italy.
Why not create a platform to make those talents visible and heard, a place where their work can be seen?Michelle Francine Ngonmo
There is a long way to go to make effective changes in the society and fashion landscape of Italy. However, the appreciation that Milan Fashion Week gave to Italian designers of color is an amazing start to bringing inclusivity into Italian culture.
With centuries of xenophobia and racism, Italy is behind on the progress many countries have made.
The efforts being made to spread inclusivity are important in changing the entire mindset and institutionalized racism built into the Italian society and culture.
One day, these efforts will make history and hopefully bring long-term changes to the Italian fashion system and culture.