Working for a New Normal in Italian Fashion’s Understanding of Race

Working for a New Normal in Italian Fashion’s Understanding of Race

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Mr. Buchanan had a burst of fame during his time at Bottega, too, when he dressed the singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill. “Many companies weren’t giving clothing to hip-hop and R&B stars,” he said, “because they weren’t considered a valid reflection of existing consumers. I attempted to stomp that theory out.”

At the time, he recalled, his network of fashion friends like Emil Wilbekin, a founding editor of Vibe magazine, and Marni Senofonte, an L.A.-based stylist, told him how luxury houses refused to lend their products and how the two were buying from stores to dress rhythm and blues performers.

“I was fortunate because I had a high level of support and security on the inside,” Mr. Buchanan said, noting that Laura Moltedo, who owned Bottega at the time, approved of his actions. “There was no resistance from the top,” he said, “although things were different in the marketing department.”

In 2001, after Bottega was sold to Gucci Group (now Kering), Mr. Buchanan left and opened his own clothing and accessories label, called Leflesh, which he designed with Manuela Morin, a close friend and former Bottega accessories designer. Described by the Italian journalist Angelo Flaccavento as, “a mix of Victoriana and R&B,” the fashion label garnered attention from Cher and Iman.

Mr. Buchanan later left Italy for New York and went on to consult for Jennifer Lopez’s Sweetface line and Sean Combs’s Sean John collection, eventually closing Leflesh to concentrate on his outside work.

In 2009 he returned to Milan and the following year he started Sansovino 6, naming the unisex cashmere line for the factory that produced it. The singer-songwriter Erykah Badu snapped up early pieces.

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