On Monday, the R&B artist R. Kelly was found guilty on nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering, with the latter charge including acts of bribery and sexual exploitation of a child. Kelly was also found to be in violation of the Mann Act, a sex-trafficking statute that—in Kelly’s case—related to the transportation and coercion of two women, including a minor. Kelly could face up to life in prison at his sentencing, which will take place on May 4. “Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator, who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable, and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification,” said Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney from the Eastern District, outside the Brooklyn courthouse where Kelly’s verdict was read.
A total of 45 prosecution witnesses were called to present evidence against Kelly, with many of his victims—including the singer Aaliyah, who married Kelly in 1994 when he was 27 and she was 15—identified as Jane Does. Accusations of engaging in sex acts with women under the age of consent have followed Kelly for decades, but it took the #MeToo revolution and the broadcast of the 2019 documentary Surviving R. Kelly for Kelly’s long-standing pattern of sexually abusive behavior to be definitively decried by the music industry—and, as of today, by a jury of his peers. Tucked away in a central Milan neighborhood that’s been home from the mid-’70s to refugees and migrants from Eritrea and North Africa, an old knitwear atelier serves as workshop-cum-headquarters to Vitelli. Vitelli is an artisanal creative community headed by Mauro Simionato, a creative director/cultural agitator with a hippie ethos. Since its inception in 2017, Vitelli has embraced holistic and sustainable production practices, a progressive social mindset, and a distinctive aesthetic, rooted in the Italian Cosmic Youth club scene of the ’80s and tinged with post-hippie, post-punk undertones. “We make experimental knitwear,” explained Simionato before the show held at Fondazione Sozzani during Milan Fashion Week, a first for the label.
“We produce exclusively from the waste of Italian fashion,” he joked. Discarded yarns and selvage are actually handpicked from deadstock and then crafted in-house at Spazio Vitelli; the batches of semi-industrial knits Vitelli produces are made in partnership with small family-owned knitters in Northern Italy, to minimize the carbon footprint while helping local suppliers’ businesses. Fiercely resourceful, Vitelli has perfected a special in-house needle-punching technique, through which it creates sheets of a hybrid textile the label calls Doomboh. Flexible, slightly felted, and beautifully textured with a sort of marbré multicolored effect, the Doomboh is draped, twisted, and “molded” into imaginative genderless shapes.
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