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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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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The Beginning Of An Italian Adventure

Thinking back to the day I submitted my application to study abroad in Florence for the semester truly does seem like forever ago. Upon my arrival to Florence I really didn’t know what to expect nor did I think I should have any expectations. Florence has so much to offer whether it be the immense amount of delicious gelato, the Florentine Fleur-de-lis scattered throughout the beautiful city, wine being cheaper than water, aperitivo, which is more or less a happy hour with food, amazing art and architecture such as The David, The Ponte Vecchio and The Duomo are just to name a few of the amazing things here in Florence.

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Leaving JFK and Headed to MXP (with Samantha Seltzer, Caitlyn Hansen, Lauren Turkowski, Marisa Miller)

370,000 people make up this beautiful city and 15,000 American students come to study each year. After arriving to Florence, less than two weeks ago, I can definitely say that I already couldn’t be happier with my choice to come and study here for the next four months. Traveling from JFK, NY to Milan and then from Milan to Florence, was a complete adventure in and of itself. Luckily, I had the opportunity to travel with some of my best friends and of course that made the experience 10x better. I can ultimately say that I had no idea what to expect when arriving at the MXP airport in Milan. It was all so different and all so new that it  didn’t seem right for me to have any expectations. I felt that it would be best to “roll with the punches” and make the best of whatever comes my way, because how many times do you get to study abroad in Florence, Italy?

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View of Florence from San Niccolò Tower

Once arriving to Florence, my friends and I stayed in a hostel for a few days to get acclimated and get orientated with school and transition ourselves from our “American ways”. It is truly so interesting and funny to see how different Italians are from Americans. For starters, most of the stores and businesses were closed for the month of August for a vacation more or less. They close their stores around 2-3 everyday for a lunch break. They use a different sized paper than we do (they use A4), they have a different garbage system than us, tipping waiters/waitresses, as well as cab drivers, is unheard of and people normally never do it (unfortunately, we learned the hard way and ended up tipping our cab driver 5 euro the first day we got here, but i’m pretty sure we made his day much better). Most of the Italians here do all speak English, but it is all very broken English and can be hard to communicate sometimes, but I like that because I look at that as a challenge and a way to push myself to learn as much Italian as possible. Wine is cheaper than water (literally) and tap water isn’t served at restaurants and is looked at as kind of funny if you request it. If you want an Latte (like the type you order in America) do not just ask for a latte because a latte here is just milk, and of course my friend Marisa got served steamed milk and it was hilarious and a learning experience. We ended up walking over 10 miles everyday last week and over 20,000 steps each day (I know this all thanks to my wonderful Fitibit tracker) so gaining weight shouldn’t be such a worry and that just means more room for gelato.

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First Night In Florence With Friends (with Samantha Seltzer, Caitlyn Hansen, Marisa Miller, Lauren Turkowski, Teresa Kelly, Christie Suozzo & Alexandria Marini)

We have seen the Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) located in the Piazza del Duomo, the San Niccolò Tower, The Ponte Vecchio and more and more each day we are here. We found an apartment the third day we were here and got it as soon as we could. We moved in and so far we love it. There are two bedrooms, a large living space, a kitchen and two bathrooms. School is only a 7 or 10 minute walk for us so we love the easy commute. There are 70 FIT students here in Florence, attending Polimoda and we all take the same classes, with the same teachers with the same students. There are a mix of fashion design students as well as fashion merchandising students.

I have plans to travel and I hope to see as much as I can. Being here was one of the best decisions I have made and I know how much I will love looking back on this experience. I want to meet new people, experience different cultures and gain new perspectives of the worlds around me. This was a blessing to be given such an amazing opportunity (thank you again mom and dad) and I want to take full advantage of this time, even if it does mean emptying my wallet…completely. I am excited to write more posts of all of the fashions, adventures and experiences that I will come across during my stay here. So for now, ciao and arreverdici!

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First Day In Florence, Italy–August 24th,204

 

 

Memar Hat Millinery

Hats were a sign of status or a job, aristocracy wore the ultimate fashions and fanciest designs, it was a sign of success and wealth. It was disrespectful to walk outside of the house not wearing one, it used to be the completion of the outfit, it was almost as necessary as wearing a corset during the eighteen hundreds.

Visiting Memar Millinery was a remarkable experience, to see the entire process of different types of hats being made. The Memar Millinery is one of the last 3 factories left in Italy that has the means to have production in house. This company has a long history and prestige, as hats have been a tradition in Italy from centuries. The factory started in 1903, it is a family owned business that has been passed down from generation to generation. Memar has vendors, all over the world. They have worked with Macys, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and many more.

The factory has kept itself going by sourcing new materials, coming up with new techniques and collaborations with high-end designers. This way not only the quality of the materials and production is something to admire but the enthusiasm and spirit of competition.

We had a tour around the millinery facilities. Witnessing the work it takes for a straw fedora to be sewn and the shaping of felt and straw hats.  Most of the raw goods come from Italian land but other sources are also used.

At last, we got to be hands on and decorated a hat of our choice.

I am a big fan of accessories but specially hats, after this visit I have learned to have a better appreciation of the craft and skills required for this labor. Memar millinery not only has years of quality and experience, but also passion and heritage.

What’s Gucci, yo?

Hey guys!

My name is Zach, and I’m studying International Fashion Merchandising/Marketing in Florence for my 3rd year at FIT. I’m pleased to say that I’ll be blogging for the FIT in Florence blog now!

Today, us Merchandising/Marketing students took a trip to the GUCCI Headquarters, located in Scandicci, just outside of Florence. In this particular building, there are 1,200 employees. Despite the pouring rain, we were all wide-eyed and excited to see the secrets held inside of this huge designer facility. Upon arrival, we received guest passes with our names on them to be worn around our necks.

We were greeted warmly by a girl who was not much older than us students. She studies part time in Milan and works full time as an assistant to the Production Manager for Gucci in Scandicci. She gave us a tour of each department of the facility. Here, they develop products and create all of the prototypes which are then sent out to 60 different factories who produce and assemble the goods. We were shown an archive of every textile used for their accessories. Every kind of leather (crocodile, python, Louisiana alligator, ostrich) with every type of finish imaginable. I personally loved the black “rubberized” leathers. The things I’d do for a motorcycle jacket of this material! We saw furs of all forms and colors, synthetic materials, sheet-thin deer-skin, and more. The artisans showed us how they cut the leathers, using only the most flawless parts of the leather and using the less-nice parts for finishing touches and small goods. They source from the best tanneries located in Florence. Everything is hand cut using a very tiny, special cutting knife that’s sharpened before every use. Going through the workshop, we saw tons of skilled workers, each working on a different Gucci product, mainly handbags. There is only one man who makes the customized travelling trunks. They take about a month to make each, and sell for an unimaginable amount. You can take your pick from buying a new house, or a hand-made Gucci trunk. Some recent clients mentioned were Rihanna and John Travolta (who apparently uses his two trunks as coffee tables). They can be made with any textile of your choice, and are finished with luxurious hardware, usually gold. Lastly, we were taken to “the bamboo room.” This is where they finish, heat and reform stalks of bamboo for their famous “bamboo bag”. The bamboo is imported from China, and only the roots are used because they are strong and not hollow like the plant itself.

Walking through the halls of Gucci’s headquarters is an overwhelming feeling. We all know gucci, and the quality that is associated with it. Some of us know the crazy story of the Gucci family (Guccio’s vision, the rebellion of his grandchildren, Maurizio’s assassination). Gucci represents a powerhouse of a family, their struggles, and their triumphs. Along the walls are black and white photographs from the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, showing family members, celebrities, and handsome people wearing Gucci. The lights inside were bright and everything sparkling clean. I hope to someday work at a place like this.

The next time you see a Gucci bag, consider the amount of time and effort that goes into making it. Know that it passes through this facility in Scandicci, and is, in every aspect, a luxury item!