Handwork embroideries and craftsmanship from Pakistan’s Kalash Valley and techniques seen in Pakistan’s north have been Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jeans latest inspiration for collection which was showcased at Milan Fashion Week in September. From bags to belts to hemlines, the details are stunning!
Stella collaborated with craftswomen from a handicraft center Karisma Ali, a champion of the women’s national football team at 22 and now a football coach, founded to create designs, incorporating cultural elements from Chitral and Kalash. Jean collaborated with Ali to create designs, using traditional embroidery from the Chitral and Kalash area.
‘I overcame with powerful emotions as I saw the work of my artisans on the runway. Tears wouldn’t be contained, feeling proud of my people, of my country, of the blessings that I have received and meeting an angel like Stella Jean. Who not only gave me an opportunity but also wanted to show the world the true side of Pakistan, of Chitral. Seeing the work of my artisans on world stage couldn’t be described into words. This past year I started a handicraft center for women in Karimabad, Chitral. Soon after starting, I was introduced to Stella Jean, through Zahir. I couldn’t be more thankful to Zahir for the introduction and placing his trust in me. Without knowing much about me, Stella trusted me and decided to make a trip to Pakistan. I travelled multiple times a week from Islamabad to Chitral and from Rambur (Kalash) to Karimabad. Lack of experience clouded my mind but trust placed in by Stella and YOOX made everything possible. Meeting Stella has been surreal. She is an angel in disguise. Not only did Stella want to show the world our designs but also our culture, our people, our humanity, our hospitality and much more. She wanted to learn and she wanted to help us grow. Being with her inspired me to do better and be part of her cause. I felt like she placed her trust in me to further her cause, our cause. Sitting there watching my artisans’ designs go by one after another, feeling proud, happy, being extremely emotional were just few of the things I felt. I couldn’t hold back and I want the world to know this. I want to show the world what Chitral can do, what the women in my village are capable of. When people wear Stella Jean Roma, I want them to know that it is more than just a piece of cloth. It is a whole story of a mother who was able to pay her child’s tuition fee. A woman who for the first time was able to financially help her family. It is a story of women who felt empowered by working on the dress. Here’s to another success story. Not just of me but the entire artisans from Chitral and Hunza who showed the world that Pakistan is more than what they see on media. Our people are kind, hospitable and hardworking’ said Karisma Ali.
In 2019, Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean traveled to Pakistan as part of her collection Laboratory of Nations, where the designer aimed to bridge a gap between Italy and nine of its mission destinations, one of which was Pakistan. The aim was to promote United Nations’ Strategic Development Goals and empower women from rural areas. Forty-six women from the center created 400 meters of embroidery, that Jean used in her collection, which was featured on Vogue and many international platforms.