MILAN — The first edition of the Black Carpet Awards held on Friday night came with palpable emotions, as winners accepting their prizes shared the hurdles they overcame in their professional and personal lives.

The ceremony held at the city’s Meet: Digital Culture Center drew industry figures including Trussardi’s chief executive officer Sebastian Suhl and creative directors Serhat Işık and Benjamin A. Huseby; Kean Etro with his wife Constanza Cavalli Etro, founder of the Fashion Film Festival Milano; designer Shayne Oliver; Julia Fox, and Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful, among others.

Organized by the Afro Fashion Association, which has been promoting diversity, equity and inclusion since 2015 spotlighting talents of different backgrounds with an original focus on the African continent, the event is geared at celebrating 10 leaders of change belonging to underrepresented communities and active in creative and entrepreneurial industries, including fashion, design, food, music, sport and cinema, among others.

Anna Wintour and Khaby Lame at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Khaby Lame and Anna Wintour at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Edward Buchanan, who was among the event’s supporters and also received the Leader of Change Legacy award alongside chef Victoire Gouloubi, shared his experience in coming to Italy 27 years ago to helm Bottega Veneta as a fresh graduate from Parsons School of Design and the racial bias he experienced at the airport, while Angela Haisha Adamou, founder and general manager of NaturAngi, a brand claiming the dignity of natural curly and Afro hair, detailed how beauty — and by extent fashion and one’s appearance — can be strong empowerment tools. She won the Leader of Change Entrepreneurship award.

The audience cheered as winners and hosts shared their personal paths and encouraged attendees to stand up for their rights and dreams.

Social media personality Tamu McPherson hosted the soiree and unveiled the 10 awards across the categories of culture, legacy, creativity, community and entrepreneurship. The five winners selected by a jury led by the Afro Fashion Association’s Michelle Francine Ngonmo included Fred Kuwornu, David Blank and Andi Nganso in addition to Buchanan and Gouloubi.

The remaining five awards, selected via online voting and dubbed People’s Choice, went to Khaby Lame, Sarah Kamsu, Daphne Di Cinto, Tia Taylor and Nadeesha Uyangoda.

Julia Fox at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Julia Fox at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Courtesy of Chimera Studios

“Celebrating all stories, this is what we are doing through the Black Carpet Awards,” said Ngonmo. “Very often we feel comfortable comparing ourselves with people who share our same background or our same opinion, but the different perspectives are enriching. Diversity and inclusion are not synonyms and certainly are not abstract concepts, nor at least should they be addressed as a ‘politically correct’ theme because they are an integral part of our daily life…[the idea is that] all together, sitting at the same table and joining forces, to discuss the beauty of diversity and how it is a crucial factor for heritage culture and for the economic growth of society,” she added.

As the founding committee joined Ngonmo onstage before the event turned into a party, designer Stella Jean — who a few weeks ago called out Carlo Capasa, president of the Camera Nazionale Della Moda, for allegedly pulling support to the We Are Made in Italy, or WAMI, collective of Black, Indigenous and designers of color in Italian fashion — invited him onstage “as a promise that he will do more next time to support it,” she said.

Edward Buchanan at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Edward Buchanan at the Black Carpet Awards in Milan.

Courtesy of Chimera Studios

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