Welcome to Milan! The temperature is moderate and, for now at least, the skies partly cloudy. A potential for “disruptive” storms has folks on the operations and technology side of things a bit nervous and taking extra precautions, but the mood and attitude of pretty much everyone else is full of excitement as Milan Fashion Week kicks off.

While not technically the first runway presentation today, Stella Jean is the first major label to present in Milan and she does so to a packed house that seems quite excited to be here. Already, the air is filled with the aroma of wonderful Italian foods, there are smiles on nearly every face and fashion is on the mind of everyone in town.

For this season, Stella Jean has partnered with the Ethical Fashion project, a partnership between the Rome Chamber of Commerce and the International Trade Centre, a department of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The concept of sustainable and ethical fashion is getting a lot of talk within the industry, but few major designers have yet to truly embrace the concept and bring their garment practices in line with its goals for sustainable and ethical fashion. Stella Jean is shining a very bright, and very colorful, spotlight on the project both in her choice of fabrics and her extensive marketing campaign.

Of course, what ultimately matters is the clothes. Stella is almost always very bright and this season is no exception. If one can imagine a color, it is probably somewhere in this collection. While orange and gold dominate a bit, the palette runs the spectrum thanks to a collection of beautiful prints based on the work of artists from the African continent (I’m still waiting for names at this point). With colors so bright and varied, it is almost impossible to not like something from the collection.

Silhouettes run close and fitted on skirts, dresses and slacks, but significantly more loose on tops and jackets practically hang. Pencil and mermaid skirts abound, and that styling works very well with the prints. Tops, interestingly enough, have a bit of an American flavor to them, fashioned largely after football jerseys, complete with large numbers on the front. The look is an interesting one, mixing the very sporty mesh with the more luxurious prints. On a handful of looks, she even layers that with flannel shirts. This is a very large and very diverse collection, though. One skirt has a very unique gathering in front. Maxi dresses have masculine collars to them. There is really a lot to look at in this collection.

What is most impressive in this collection is the incredible embroidery in the coats. Sure, these are going to set you back a few dollars, but when you see the amazing detail and craftsmanship you won’t mind. Beautiful scenes almost seem to come to life against backgrounds of shimmering red, orange, and gold.

How much fun is this collection? Consider that, after making their initial walk on the runway, models return in swimwear for the finale walk sporting many of the same prints we saw in the day wear ensembles. Ethically sourced swimwear? Yes,  we all can get behind that.

Stella Jean gives us a wonderful start to fashion in Milan. These are great clothes with an admirable ethic behind them. I hope the stand she is taking is one that catches on among all designers.

Photo credit: Guillame Roujas

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