Diesel promotes sex-positivity as Milan Fashion Week opens

Milan Fashion Week got started under a different kind of spotlight as Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean protested the Italian National Fashion Chamber for not doing enough to support diversity and inclusion of designers living in Italy

Colleen Barry
Wednesday 22 February 2023 17:40 GMT

Milan Fashion Week came under a different kind of spotlight as Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean protested the Italian National Fashion Chamber for not doing enough to support diversity and inclusion of designers living in Italy.

Jean withdrew from the Milan calendar earlier this month. She also launched a hunger strike, a move she acknowledged was dramatic, in a bid to protect designers close to her from the kind of retribution she said she has suffered for her activism calling out racism in Italy.

The hunger strike went on for 10 days before Jean received the written assurances she sought.

The head of the fashion chamber, Carlo Capasa, has denied pulling support from a project Jean initiated to promote designers of color living in Italy. Capasa said the funding was always intended to be time-limited.

Instead of opening Fashion Week with a video presentation, the We Are Made in Italy project is holding a low-key presentation of the collections by a third class of designers of color living and working in Italy.

Here are some highlights from the first day of Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday:


Fashion chamber head Capasa pointed to other inclusion initiatives taking place this week, including an event highlighting designers promoted by U.S.-based Blanc Magazine.

Blanc Magazine founder Teneshia Carr has said her mission is “giving underrepresented, incredibly talented designers a place to be seen and heard. To sell. To sell.”

She is showcasing three at the chamber's Fashion Hub as part of a new project, titled Blanc Spaces, that is intended to help creatives of color and across genders connect with major fashion brands and retailers as a sort of talent matchmaker.

The designers featured in the Milan launch of the project are Aaron Potts, a New York-based designer who combines 1990s glam with utilitarian elements in his A.Potts brand; Milan-trained Rachel Scott, who combines crocheted elements that recall her Jamaican heritage with European wools in her Diotima brand; and Patience Torlowei, whose eponymous Nigeria-based brand combines a love of color with tailoring that she learned living in Belgium.

Potts, who worked for a string of brands before launching his own 3½ years ago, said he hires people who don’t fit the classic fashion world mold.

“We are an incredibly diverse group. That’s how the magic happens. You cannot have a monolith of experiences and histories. It takes the magic of everyone’s experience to make something relevant in the modern world,’’ he said.

Milan’s first Black Carpet Awards, to recognize diversity across sectors, also is scheduled for Friday.


Glenn Martens is promoting sex positivity with his new collection for denim-centric brand Diesel.

Models walked around a mound of 200,000 Durex condom boxes, underlining a safe-sex message but also a capsule collection with the condom brand that is set to drop in April. As part of the campaign, Diesel plans to give away 300,000 boxes of condoms in stores around the world.

Martens has had fun and success while redefining Diesel. The Diesel handbag with an elongated D motif is a Gen-Z must-have.

Denim drove the collection displayed in Milan, which had a furtive, run-for-cover feel and included garments that were torn, distressed, shredded, and seemingly torched. The treatments speak to survival, making it through some scrapes and living to tell the tale.

Denim was interspersed with sheer panels, some in risque positions, worn with fading Diesel T-shirts. On the feminine side, there were slinky, silken looks fastened with sexy chains. On the masculine, there were oversized hoodies and a well-worn gray pinstripe jacket and trousers, permanently showing their creases.

The mismatched boss and assistant from Season 2 or the TV series “White Lotus” made a front-row appearance, with Haley Lu Richardson, who played the assistant, Portia, sitting next to drag queen Alexis Stone, dressed to impersonate Jennifer Coolidge.

“Nothing beats the original,’’ Stone quipped.

Richardson’s Portia, assistant to Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid, ignited the internet with her off-beat wardrobe choices.

“I think they loved to hate it,’’ said Richardson, swathed in a sexy, stretch Diesel sheer she described as comfy, sexy pajamas. “You know what, if it gets people talking …”

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