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Milan Fashion Week showcases emerging Black designers, launches initiative to fight discrimination

MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week highlighted diversity and in a new initiative that aims to promote inclusion across the industry and the return of a showcase for underrepresented designers as five days of mostly womenswear previews for Fall-Winter 2024-25 got underway on Wednesday.

An agreement signed Tuesday by the Italian fashion council, a governmental anti-discrimination office, and a nonprofit promoting African fashion seeks to “trace, identify and fight” discriminatory practices. The initiative will start with a broad survey to create a snapshot of the representation of women, people of color and other underrepresented groups across the industry, from fashion houses to suppliers.

The president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber, Carlo Capasa, told The Associated Press that he hopes to have results in a year.

Capasa said he was approached by Premier Giorgia Meloni ’s anti-discrimination office for the initiative “to understand what can be done better,” tapping the fashion industry as a closely watched agent of change in society.

“I don’t think an association like ours can solve the (discrimination) problem, or it would be very simple to fix. I think we can try to make a small contribution," Capasa said, adding that the government's role was critical. “The level of awareness has changed, which is already a step forward."

The Italian fashion industry has been under pressure since the Black Lives Matters movement to be more transparent about representation of people of color in decision-making roles. But ascertaining numbers has been stymied by privacy limits that Capasa said the new survey hopes to overcome.

He distinguished the initiative's focus behind-the-scenes from others promoting designers of color, such as the We Are Made in Italy, which mentors designers of color living and working in Italy, and the Black Carpet Awards, which honors diversity across sectors.

FASHION HUB SHOWCASES EMERGING BLACK DESIGNERS

The Fashion Hub again showcased emerging designers from underrepresented communities, featuring U.S. brands BruceGlen and anOnlyChild and British brand Sabirah. The initiative, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian fashion council, offers a space to meet buyers and the fashion community on the hunt for new brands.

Bruce and Glen Proctor, the twins behind the BruceGlen brand, gave a superhero vibe in their colorful “Thrills” tracksuits in layered v-lapels recalling Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket. Bruce in burgundy, violet, pumpkin and umber, and Glen in bright fuchsia and eggplant with an aqua-blue base.

With a collection built around a light-catching melange of rainbow colors, BruceGlen is not about staples, but spreading joy.

“That is our goal with BruceGlen, to design clothing that ignites joy. When I look at myself in the mirror with this outfit it makes me smile,’’ Bruce said.

Deborah Latouche’s latest Sabirah collection was inspired by Dominique Deveraux, the first Black fictional character featured on the 1980s TV series “Dynasty.”

“She wore head to toe monochrome, with a matching hat, matching bag and matching shoes. She was just everything,’’ Latouche said. “Definitely in the U.K. we thought, ’we are seeing someone who has an amazing presence on television.'"

Latouche recreated the Deveraux's spirit with a liquid golden dress cascading down the figure into a train and topped with a snood, a look fit for any red carpet and in keeping with the brand's modesty ethos.

Maxwell Osborne took inspiration from his Jamaican roots for his New York-based anOnlyChild collection, creating looks out of mostly deadstock fabrics that suggest an elevated repurposing of hand-me-downs.

“My family grew up with nothing but their uniforms for school always had to be pressed and clean. But they also had no shoes,'' said Osborne, a self-taught art student who cut his teeth at Puff Daddy's brand Sean John. ”There was this joy and playfulness. This was their world."

Colleen Barry, The Associated Press