Stella Jean's Cultural References Converge

MILAN, Italy - Who but Haitian designer Stella Jean can combine aquatic wildlife, Bolivian female wrestling garb, and a drumming circle in one collection? Jean is quite literally known for her melange of cultural references, so much so that she has received flack for her mixing methods in the past, but this Spring 2018 collection during Milan Fashion Week honored the inspiration with a short film preceding the presentation.

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The Cholitas are a group of female wrestlers known for their tiered petticoats and small bowler hats worn within the ring, who for decades faced prejudice for their aversion to Western attire. Jean incorporated traditional Cholita elements and threw in a few of her own, including crisp white button-down shirts and striped cotton blouses with voluminous sleeves. Accents of red in ribbon trim, enamel eyewear, and fishnet stockings added a thread of continuity between each look, but overall the Bolivian references felt heavy-handed and so site specific that it begged the question of how these pieces might translate in an everyday woman's life.

The tie-dyed separates were a welcome touch of lightness as well as the navy all-in-one with red cross-stitching. A scuba suit emblazoned with Stella Jean took the look immediately to modern day street style. Embroidered motifs layered in off-the-shoulder tops and maxi skirts harkened to the irreverent and playful design Jean is celebrated for. The bomber jackets with wide lapels bridged a gap of wearability and her insouciant take on footwear - striped with pale blue bows - made for a jovial and ultimately triumphant conclusion.

Photos Courtesy of Luca Tombolini /