Why Stella Jean’s ethical fashion is an inspiration for all

“Sustainability is the only way to answer major issues like climate change, lack of biodiversity and scarcity of resources,” says Marie-Claire Daveu, head of sustainability for Kering – which encompasses 22 brands, including Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta. “It can give a competitive advantage, because once it drives a business it stimulates the creativity and innovation that keep a brand ahead.” As consumers are becoming more informed about the pitfalls of mass-produced clothes, more brands are emerging that cite ethical production as their purpose. “But what do these brands bring to the table in terms of design credibility? Does a focus on ethics actually have staying power in a trend-driven market?” wonders the Guardian. Sure does.

Of course, making a statement with fashion is nothing new. In the ‘80s, Katharine Hamnett turned environmental solidarity into a style choice with her signature slogan t-shirts. Today Stella McCartney is on the forefront of this trend. An avid animal rights herself, she is a high end designer with a conscience; she never, ever uses leather or fur. Stella McCartney continues to come up with new material mixes and products while avoiding materials traditionally associated with luxury. Another Stella that has an overwhelming desire for ethical fashion which doesn’t compromise on style is the new Italo-Haitian design sensation Stella Jean, who contrasts exuberant traditional Haitian wax textiles with the stripes of Italian shirt fabrics in deep, sophisticated shades to elegant 1950s-inflected effect.

A winner of Altaroma and Italian Vogue’s Who Is On Next? competition, Stella Jean held her first major show in Giorgio Armani’s fashion theater. This at his behest, Jean is typical of the independent designers now beginning to populate the sustainable luxury arena: she is young and a poster girl for the new generation that is driving attitudes forward, pushing luxury brands to invest in the area, as Daveu points out. For Jean, there is no alternative. “We live in an unsustainable period, so for me it is natural to want to preserve and transmit heritage and integrity,” she says.

Celebrity endorsements don’t come much better than that. Rihanna brought the relatively new designer into the spotlight and the White House posing in the Ankara printed shirt dress from Stella Jean’s AW14 collection.

“Growing up in a multiracial family in Italy – not easy in the 1980s – I found people did not want to learn about other traditions, so the treasure trove of unparalleled craftsmanship that the EFI (the UN and World Trade Organization-backed Ethical Fashion Initiative under the slogan “Not charity, just work”) opened up to me was a wonderful chance both to showcase their skills and create social enterprise, not charity. I find that stores and customers are open to this new philosophical viewpoint.”

This former model and mom is considered by many the most exciting thing contemporary fashion has going for it right now. Her collections are novel and breathtaking. With crisp tailoring inspired by her Italian father and colorful prints influenced by her Haitian mother and the country’s ties to Africa, Jean’s creations offer added value through carefully curated and meaningful production sources giving us the choice to give something back with our fashion choices.

Stella and Stella are pointing the way toward an emerging harmony between aesthetics and brains, toward and an emerging harmony that is developing between. Stay informed because design thinking and social-problem solving is not a trend. It is a call for action and it is here to stay.

You can shop Stella Jean SS15 collection here

Cover image via Vogue