Life in Florence – The Adjustment Period

 

Arno River and Ponte Vecchio

Arno River and Ponte Vecchio

I have been in Florence for about six weeks now and it’s been a roller coaster in many ways. It started with a culture shock, adjusting to everything from a new city, to the language barrier and the sad rarity of peanut butter. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy, but it is worth it to be in this amazing city.

Florence is a remarkable city that has such history, and it’s history you can see just by walking around. The result is a phenomenon that I noticed soon after I got here; because you can simply walk around the city and see something that astounds you. You turn the corner and all of a sudden the Duomo or Santa Maria Novella is in front of you, and for a moment you stop and can’t help but stare at the artistic marvel in front of you. Looking up at something last seen in a book.

Florence Skyline

Yet over time you get accustomed to Florence you start to learn the twisted streets, develop a love for cappuccinos and admit that you have a gelato problem. Your Italian starts to improve, albeit slowly, and you feel not just more comfortable but maybe just a little like Florence is a kind of home. You’ve adjusted, gotten past that first bout of homesickness, always the worst, and have come to terms with the fact you are completely out of your comfort zone. Realizing that this experience not only will change your life, but also is already is changing your life.

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However it’s not just about living in Florence it’s also about going back to school and getting used to having classes again. Classes here are different, if anything they are harder, more is expected of you. Yet you are learning more at the same time. On a side note in Florence you do take the same classes you would in New York, just in Italy.

Santa Maria Novella

Second Year for fashion design is all about expanding your horizons, taking what you learned last year and seeing how far you can go with it. In many ways it is about expanding your creativity. Taking you from fashion student to fashion designer. The classes are designed to challenge you, so instead of first year when you designed smaller four, five, maybe ten look projects; you know design an entire collection of approximately forty different looks.

For a more in depth view on what our classes are like check out the student blog for my fashion past and present class.

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Why Go To Class When You Can…

While in Florence, I am taking the normal FIT course load of six classes: three major area electives and three related area. My classes are still a long three hours, like they were in New York City, but rather than sitting in a classroom I spend a few of these classes exploring Florence. Don’t get me wrong, I still fidget in my chair taking notes once or twice a week, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays it’s a guarantee that I will be out exploring the city and getting guided tours from my amazing professors at Polimoda.

 

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From Old to New: Apparently I like red journals!

Florence is so jam-packed with history, art, museums, and churches that upon landing I was nervous I would have trouble seeing it all. Thanks to my Renaissance Art class and my International Buying and Marketing class, I am seeing both places I didn’t know existed as well as places that I had hoped to see. In International Buying and Selling, we visited Scuola del Cuoio, a leather making workshop and school. Scuola del Cuoio creates handmade leather jackets, bags, and accessories directly in Florence. They emboss their products with 22 karat gold design and each product is handmade by an artisan who trains in their very own internship program. Studying FMM, it’s safe to say that fashion is a pretty globalized industry, but Scuola del Cuoio brings back the artistry in the craft and makes unique and one of a kind products. As someone who loves to write, I couldn’t resist a leather-bound journal, embossed with “Kay.” It’s one of my most treasured items I have picked up thus far in my travels.

 

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1938-1939: This shoe was created for Judy Garland after she sang Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz

Another trip we took in class was to the Ferragamo Museum. Centered in the luxury shopping area of Florence, the museum follows the life of Salvatore Ferragamo and his innovative design of shoes, especially heels, for women. Within the museum are walls  of shoes created over the course of 1900s. There are models of shoes made for Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. There were

The Classic Ferragamo Red Shoe

The Classic Ferragamo Red Shoe

also shoe lasts for everyone  from Michael Jordan and Madonna to Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. Even the Royal Baby has a shoe last for his very own Ferragamo shoes… Oh, to be the child of Price William and Kate Middleton. For a fashion girl, it took everything in me not to drool on the shoes as we walked from room to room.

 

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Basilica de Santa Croce… Breathtaking!

In my freshman year at FIT, I sat through three hours of History of Art at 9 AM on Wednesdays. I remember this due to how hard it was to keep my eyes open, despite my enthusiastic teacher. Now that I’m in actually here and studying Renaissance Art in the city where all the art is located, I have no issue with my eyes closing. Through class I have visited the Orsanmichele Church, seen the Baptistery doors and learned the story depicted on bronze panels, and seen Donatello’s bronze David at the useo Bargello. The textbook comes alive in these classes because what I am learning is literally in front of my face. In Basilica de Santa Croce, we saw the frescos painted byGiotto. Whether religious or not (and I’m not), when you enter a church like Santa Croce it’s absolutely breathtaking. There is so much beauty in the bright painting, detailed sculptures, and gold features of the altar that I stopped to stare and take it all in. It’s not just one or two churches that are unique and incredible, it’s every single church in Florence that has this level of beauty. Seriously. Every single church was crafted as if it came straight from Heaven.

These are just a small handful of the places I have seen while in Florence. This city is filled with beauty, history, art, and inspiration around every corner and although that’s a cliché comment, it’s true in every sense of the words. As nerdy as it is, I’m excited to attend my classes here… maybe that will be something that I take back to New York with me? Here’s to wishful thinking!

Adventures in Milan

In the fashion world September means one thing, fashion week, and the spring/summer collections are about to walk down runways in cities across the globe. In New York there is fashion week and as a design student I’m far from oblivious to it, but this fashion week in Milan was really the first time I felt like I was involved in the process and not just another spectator. Our first academic trip this year was to Milan during as you might have guessed fashion week. Yet because this was an academic trip it afforded us additional opportunities. We could see things that on our own we would have never had access to.

It started with our arrival in Milan, first stop the Duomo. Personally this was one of my favorite parts of the trip, the building its self has such remarkable detail one can’t help but be awe inspired. The Duomo in Milan stands out though more than just because of its size, it’s the 3rd largest church in Europe and took 800 years to build, but because unlike other Italian churches it’s a gothic cathedral, more like Notre Dame than say the Duomo in Florence. One of the characteristics of a gothic cathedral is the amount of detail that goes into the structure, it is covered in statues and carvings that create little hidden surprises that you can find as you turn each corner. We got to take a roof tour we gave us a remarkable opportunity to see not only the building up close but afforded us a spectacular view of the square below.

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Next we went to Vogue’s who’s next, an exhibition of sorts that show cases up and coming designers and their work. What was interesting about this is that the ideas that these designers are presenting are a new point of view, which is why I like that more attention is being given to these remarkably talented people. After that we went to Corso Como 10, a unique gem that’s a cross between a department store and charming boutique. In many ways it seems like this fairy tale that’s hidden in this busy metropolis, from the outside all you see is an arch way with a sign overhead but walk through and your transported into someplace completely different. There’s a little courtyard cafe that’s surrounded by greenery that you walk through to enter the store. The colors are simple mostly black and white with greys here and there and the occasional pop of color, mostly due to the clothes, and with décor that gives it a sense of airy whimsy. Because it is a concept store you’re going to see things here that you would elsewhere, yet that is what makes it so fabulous.

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The next day featured what was the favorite stop for many, the Dolce and Gabbana factory. As a design major this visit was actually extremely insightful. It exposed us to what happens after you create your design going from ‘oh this is a cool idea’ to it being sold in a store. There are a deceptively large amount of steps to the process. We saw how they created the patterns for each garment and worked of the fabric layout to ensure the least amount of waste possible, to the people who checked all of the fabric that came through for imperfections or those who created all of the sample and runway garments. In the afternoon we went to the White trade show, which consisted of different companies and designers who were each presenting what they thought the future of fashion, might be. So not next spring, but the spring after, each designer had their own take on different upcoming trends.

d&g lakecomo               Our last day of the trip took place not in Milan but in Como, known in the fashion industry for its textile production and printing. We got the chance to visit the Ratti factory and archives. The Ratti factory is one of the better-known factories producing fabrics for the likes of Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, and Valentino. What is so amazing about the Ratti factory is that they do everything there in house, they take the threads weave them into fabric and then print them using multiple different methods. At the archives they were featuring an exhibit on Emilio Pucci, who had had a lot of his fabrics printed by Ratti in the 1950’s. When they went back through their archives they found they had several examples of his prints, with original sketches and test prints along with swatches of the final fabrics. We were also shown some of the textiles that they have in their archives, some dating back to the Renaissance, each one we were shown had it’s own kind of artistry to it. I saw so many amazing things on this trip it has only made me want to go out and see so much more.

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A Trip To Italy’s Fashion Capital

To say how crazy it is that I have been here in Florence for a month already is a complete understatement. The weeks seem to go by so fast, and the weekends speed by even faster. Having Fridays off is great and it allows for more time to travel, whether it be inside Italy or to another country. I have been trying to keep a list of all of the amazing restaurants, stores, gelaterias, etc. that are my favorite, but I just can’t find enough time to  jot everything down!

Day at the Duomo di Milano

Day at the Duomo di Milano

This past weekend (from Sunday to Tuesday) all 70 of us FIT students made our way to the fashion capital of Italy. We arrived early Sunday morning and from there we began our adventure. Our trip started out with us dropping off our luggage to our hotel and then making our way to the “Super Collections” trade show that was occurring. Once we were there we walked around and looked at all of the amazing merchandise that was being shown. It was great to see merchandise at an international trade show, as most of the merchandise, let alone brands, were all very unfamiliar to me. I was personally able to see a multitude of brands and companies that are not shown at trade shows in the U.S. During the trade show, we were all able to complete our findings for two of our fashion merchandising classes which was very helpful.

Top Of The Duomo

Top Of The Duomo (Samantha Seltzer, Teresa Kelly, Kayleigh Folster, Caitlyn Hansen, Hannah Charles and Kathleen Arias)

After we left the trade show we took the metro to the Duomo and from there we began to see the real city of Milan. Milan fashion week was occurring while we were still there and Milan is of course, known for its one of a kind fashion. Stores on every corner and people bustling throughout the city streets. We were fortunate enough to take a guided tour of the Duomo di Milano which led us up the stairs of the Duomo itself and out on the main rooftop. While sitting there, it was an unbelievable feeling, to actually sit and think of where I was sitting in that very moment.

Monday rolled around quite soon, and our day was full of fashion visits and a trip to Como to see the silk factories and textile factories.  Our FMM group was split into two and I visited the Mantero Factory. It was amazing to get to see how brands such as, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood and Valentino print their silk scarfs. There were silk screen printing and  digital printing. It was interesting to see which form companies print their merchandise on. Higher end brands normally print through silk screen printing since it takes longer and to uses more materials and lower end companies use digital printing. Having observed both, they seemed both very efficient and both of good quality. After visiting the factory we were able to see the archives of the Mantero company and view their oldest fabrics and books used. Once that was over we were able to enjoy the rest of Como and take in all of its beauty. Como is a very pretty city and very quiet (now I know why George Clooney chose to have a house there). The lake is beautiful and relaxing and after lunch my friends and I ate a gelato as we walked around the lake.

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Gucci Print at Mantero Factory

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Archived Fabrics From Mantero

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1938 Chanel Advertisement

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Lake Como

After a full two days on Sunday and Monday, Tuesday was just as busy. Fortunately, we were able to wake up later and get in as much sleep as we could (I mean, what college student doesn’t love their sleep?) Anyway, Tuesday morning we were off to have private store visits of both the Excelsior and LaRinascente department stores. Both of which are two very different stores targeted to two very different demographics of customers. The Excelsior store is on the more higher and exclusive end of the spectrum and LaRinascente is targeted toward the higher end everyday shopper, almost like a Bergdoff Goodman’s or higher end Bloomingdales. After our tour we were headed over to the Chagall Exhibit that was going on. We had a guided tour as well, and it was very informative and interesting to hear about Marc Chagall’s inspiration and life as an artist. After looking through the exhibit it was time to hangout and tour Milan on our own. From there we shopped, ate lunch and took in as much as we could.

Pizza From Milan

Pizza From Milan

After a long three, exciting, yet tiresome days of fashion and travel, it was time to head back to Florence. We took a 7:30 train and we were back to Florence around 9:30. It was a great trip and an overall wonderful experience. I loved seeing all the sites and gaining the first hand knowledge from the factories and tours. After this trip, I can’t wait to see all of the other wonders that are out there. Arrivederci!

Is This Really My Home?

I landed my butt in Florence just over two weeks ago and it has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Between a day and a half of flying, a time change, and a culture shock, I am still settling into the way of life here. Now I am at the halfway point in my second week of school and I’m finally feeling like this could possibly be real life and not just a foggy daze that I am happily stuck in. Florence is, in just a few words, beautiful, amazing, delicious, hot, quaint, and slightly overwhelming at the moment! The next nine months of my life are going to be set in a different time zone, city, country, and continent… it’s safe to say that it takes some getting used to.

This was the point during which I wondered if I could actually wheel both these suitcases while carrying a backpack and second carry on!

This was the point during which I wondered if I could actually wheel both these suitcases while carrying a backpack and second carry on!

Upon touching down here in Italia, a few major differences have come to mind right away. Florence has no idea what a grid system is and having decided to only use my phone with Wi-Fi, I had my head in a tiny map with twisty semi-labeled roads for my first few days here! I decided to take my first run in Florence just the other day as an attempt to burn off a small percentage of the carbs I have taken in since being here. I figured if I ran straight, I could simply turn around, but of course the street I was on ended so I just took a turn. I ran twisting around streets for about 20 minutes and suddenly ended up on my very own street… without trying to. All I can say is that at least I tried to exercise.

My pretty little cappucino

My pretty little cappucino

A second major difference is the price of food and drinks here. After living in New York City for two years, I expect a coffee to be nothing short of $2.50. My now daily cappuccino, that I order “take away” en route to class, costs me 1.20 Euro, or $1.54. It even comes with a chocolate design doodled into the steamed milk each morning, something I am sure Starbucks would have charged me extra for.

My five Euro sandwich- turkey, mozzarella, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes and truffle spread

My five Euro sandwich- turkey, mozzarella, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes and truffle spread.

A panini down the street from my apartment is just 3.50 Euro and the best sandwich I have ever tasted was only 5.00 Euro and a short walk away. The prices can definitely go up from there, but as a girl on a budget I’m content with seeking out the best deals.

I have chosen to live alone during my time here and so far I am enjoying this decision. My rent is not even close to what I would be paying if I lived in New York alone and though my apartment is small, it’s certainly enough room for one person. My apartment is a short walk to my friends’ apartments, bars (a bar is a coffee shop here), stores for everything I may need, and the Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is the most amazing fresh market with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, meats, and fish- it’s a quick stop to get ingredients for whatever I am in the mood to cook. Apartment hunting, although stressful, ultimately worked out. Life seems to have assured that each of us made it where we were supposed to be. Now that I have a place to return home to at the end of the day that feels like my own, it’s much easier to picture Florence as my life and not just a temporary vacation. That being said, it’s a life I am most certainly getting used to.

Exploring Firenze... and wishing this was my front gate

Exploring Firenze… and wishing this was my front gate

I am trying to slowly, but surely explore the city. Everywhere I walk I think “Oo I should eat there” or “Wow that place looks awesome.” I have to keep reminding myself that there is plenty of time in nine months to stop back at these places and I don’t have to stock up on every croissant or gelato flavor all at once (although it is tempting to do just that). The most important part of being here for me is to just see it all and take it all in. I’m constantly pushing myself to get out and walk around even when it’s only me. How else will I see all the secret beauties within these city walls?

Everyone says that traveling is easy in Florence and Europe and through Polimoda I took my first trip this past weekend to “Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.” Cinque Terre was a two-hour bus ride to some of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. We had the option to hike or go to the beach and the active side of me(and the side that’s been eating all the carbs) chose the hike. Though they made it seem easy, it was quite the uphill climb, but each step and my one wipe out, was more than worth it. As you climbed up the hills you walked past rows and rows of grapes growing in thick bunches. The views were absolutely incredible as you looked out at the jagged coastline created by the Mediterranean Sea. It was breathtaking to stop and see the lush, green mountainside, with the small clusters of colorful homes nestled together down near the sea. After the hike, I took a dip into the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to leaving I ordered homemade pasta with homemade pesto, a Cinque Terre specialty. It was a fulfilling day in just about every way.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

My Italian adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to keep sharing it. For now, arrivederci!