I’ve had my eye on Stella Jean for a while now. You see, as a Canadian born child of Haitian descent, anytime I hear or see others of Haitian or bicultural Haitian descent, I’m excited to learn more about their contribution to different genres such as fashion. When I mentioned to a few industry people that we had the opportunity to interview Stella, the general consensus was that Stella was not only stunning but also one of the most interesting and talented people in fashion today.
Throughout her collections, one can see the beautiful merger of her mother’s Haitian heritage and her father’s Italian heritage as well. In this particular Spring/ Summer 2015 collection, Stella Jean depicts every day Haitian life through her colourful prints while merging the Italian tailoring and fit in her garments.
If you’re in Toronto, I encourage you to shop her beautiful collection (her clothes are flying off the racks…no joke) at Holt Renfrew.
Name: Stella Jean
Where did you grow up?
Where do you currently live?
Did you study design?
No, I didn’t.
How did you get started in design?
At the beginning I worked on the other side of the fence as a model but I quickly realized that my real vocation was being a creative, a designer. Anyway, I do not regret the past as a model because this has also helped to make me who I am today.
I decided to start designing my own label in 2009 and, after being rejected twice, I finally won the Who is On Next? Contest, an international scouting project organized by Vogue Italia and Altaroma.
My passion for fashion comes from the necessity of finding my own expressive language: fashion is my most authentic communications medium through which I have been able to express and resolve the sense of inadequacy which has guided me through the first years of my life.
Does your Haitian / Italian bi-culturality inspire your design aesthetic? If so, how?
My own story, my roots and background have always inspired my work that’s why I decided to materialize my personal experience mixing a shirt of my father, to symbolize the European roots, with Wax pattern prints representing the African roots of Haiti, the native island of my mother, the first independent black republic in the world. When I combined these two elements together I finally had my Wax & Stripes Philosohpy. Telling a true story, totally authentic, for the first time, has been my strength. It’s about stylistic, cultural and social oximorons with an ironic twist, where opposites meet and find their balance between the academic rigour of the Old Continent and the vibrant exuberance of the Creole culture. These are my cornerstones and it seems that has worked.
When designing your collection, what is your creative process?
Behind my creations, there are no programs, virtual applications or market research, but people. With their gestures, their skilled hands, the threads, the books about history and literature, the social contrasts. I love to talk to people, I like looking at their pictures, I guess the stories of their grandparents and the elderly. That way it comes out a story with details, locations, and clothes. Furthermore, I’m not able to sketch, I didn’t study fashion, so that’s not something about academics but it’s something that starts from the depths of my soul. For me it’s very important to shape and drape the dress directly on the body. Having the body three dimensions we cannot commit only to paper.
Your Spring / Summer 2015 line is beautiful, feminine and colourful, what was your inspiration for it?
My SS2015 collection is a declaration of intent and confirms my commitment in testifying, sharing and tracing back secular traditions through narrative images. Thanks to my sourcing trip to Haiti with the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative team, we got in touch with the Haitian tradition of Art Naïf, discovering such a rare treasure of artisanal and skilled handcrafts. The market, acting as social barometers, is where we can meet proud vendors adorned with scarves enhancing femininity. Adding to the hustle and bustle of the market, “tap-tap” buses also have a strong presence in recreating this atmosphere. The “tap-tap”, the traditional means of public transport, is also described as “pop art on wheels”. Adorned with subjects belonging to religious, popular and historical tradition; ironic phrases, proverbs or messages; the tap-tap are painted by artists who attend art schools specialized in tap-tap painting. Donkeys, another important means of transportation and labor, and sugar cane, are also recurring Haitian elements that reappear on prints and hand-painted fabrics, completing the visual landscape of this collection.
Finish this sentence: a woman should always have the three following things:
A white shirt, sense of humour and memory.
Thank you, Stella, for your time!
Follow Stella Jean:
Instagram & Twitter: @stellajeanltd