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.

1555559_10204566140139164_251544910540943985_n

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?

image 1.43.27 PM

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.

11275_10204577301578193_7547190320858132806_n

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!

10577209_10204526372869802_7165972585714168612_n

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!

What Does Your Professor Do?

In high school seeing your teacher outside of class is like finding out that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist- scratch that – It’s like finding out that the tooth fairy is really just a hairy fat guy in a tutu…. unpleasant.  “You mean teachers have lives?! They don’t sleep under the desks and eat chalk?”   “No, they are just like you and me, they eat sleep, go to movies and have lives. Sometimes you can even run into them on the street…. weird right?”
In college seeing your professor outside of school is actually pretty nice. My classmates and I were invited to the restaurant of our sewing and flat pattern Professor: La Terrazza Del Principe. The walk up to the restaurant is beautiful! Big houses, tons of greenery and the leaves that are falling off the trees turns it into a wonderland of color. When we got to the restaurant we were surprised. It looked like the food should have cost more but it was extremely reasonable considering the high-end atmosphere. She showed us around the restaurant and I was surprised to find a very nice wine cellar (where one can have a romantic candle lit dinner), and a beautiful view of Florence from the garden deck.
Our professor’s husband is from Sicily and made us some of the best Italian pasta I have had. One was a creamy white sauce with pistachios and the other was a red sauce with egg plant (Pasta alle Norma). The sun dried tomatoes were to die for! After dinner she brought out Tiramisu and I had some Almond Panna with chocolate. It was fun getting to eat some delicious food and it was even more fun seeing our professor run a top notch restaurant! Thank You F.I.T. in Florence!