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

 

 

Half way there

Many of us spent the break traveling around or went home. We have come back felling refreshed and ready for a new semester. During Christmas I had the wonderful opportunity of spending the holiday with a Sicilian Family, where we basically sat at the table half of the day, between breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner; enjoying not only the food but also the intense conversations. Moreover we spent the other half of the day harvesting and picking the fruits and vegetables to be used.

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Now back in Firenze, I keep falling more and more in love with it, rediscovering new places with a different perspective. I might not be a local, but getting outside the student FIT bubble has truly helped me to absorb further the culture in addition to get to know myself better.

FERRAGAMO: History that is RTW

Today, the FM students visited to the Salvatore Ferragamo headquarters, located here in Florence above the Ferragamo flagship and museum. The corporate offices are in an incredible Renaissance palace, belonging to Ferragamo since the 1940’s.

We met with their Management/Merchandising team, an elegant group who carry out all of the production, from sourcing raw materials and working with the design team, to fashion shows and in-store delivery which is of course, global.

It’s inspiring to see how the legacy of Salvatore is carried out and translated to RTW, something that Mr. Ferragamo did not specifically specialize in. The team still uses values and construction processes from almost century ago.

After a lovely and informative presentation, we had a coffee reception with the team and heard some wise words from Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of Salvatore, pictured below. What a privilege! We then concluded our appointment with a visit to the museum, now featuring an exhibit of Marilyn Monroe.

Blonde Ambition

A couple of weeks ago, my classmates and I were graced with the presence of Nita Tucker. She’s a writer, journalist, relationship-expert, consultant, and the founder of The Florentine — Florence’s only newspaper written in completely English. She is truly an inspirational woman, and if you don’t believe me, ask Oprah, who featured Nita on her show some years ago. One of our wonderful professors happens to be good friends with Nita, and thankfully she was in town and was able to stop by to share some of her wisdom. She shared a lot about her life and what she’s been through. At the age of 50, she realized that she had never lived in Europe (a dream of hers), and felt that it was “now or never.” Having been in love with Italy and particularly Florence, she made a decision to drop everything and come to Firenze with minimal cash and few people to call a friend. This, my friends, is cold, hard, precarious chancery. Her husband was not as supportive as he could have been, and her children were young, but she had a feeling in her gut that this was the right move. She told us about her struggles, and about her triumphs. She experienced things significant enough to write a couple of books about. Eventually, Nita took it upon herself to begin a newspaper in English—a brilliant idea, considering the second most common language spoken in Florence is English, after Italian, naturally. It was a huge risk, and certainly required guts on her end. She sacrificed a lot in order for the Florentine to work out, but today it’s read by English speakers and Italians alike. She told us that some English professors in Florence use articles from it to help teach their students English. Not only are their issues all over town, but they are present online, with an easy to navigate website. Evidently, things worked out for Nita, and this brought her to a socialite-status in Florence. She spoke about being friends with the Ferragamos, and on her website you’ll find photos of her posing in beautiful gardens, looking intellectual at book-readings, and speaking with Ted Kennedy. Nita is not your average American-turned-Italian.

When it all boils down, Nita is just an ambitious, curious, sweetheart. She’s got strong intuition, lofty goals, and an incredible drive. She’s got insight like you’ve never seen, and this has been displayed in her speeches and in her books (she’s published about 5). She was kind enough to inform us of her favorite hot-spots in Florence, which was definitely helpful for us students. Aside from all of this, she gave us some great, unforgettable advice.

Here are some things that stuck in my mind:

  • “If you see an open door, go inside. You never know what you’ll see or who you’ll meet.” We were told that people here are generally open-minded and inviting. If you receive an opportunity of any kind, take it! What’s the worst that could happen?
  • “Try to be interested, not necessarily interesting.” This reminds me to show people that you care about them and what they have to say, as opposed to superimposing your supposed “greatness,” and being selfish.
  • Florence is definitely not the place for shy/timid people. Everybody here is very outgoing and charismatic.
  • Italians are all about establishing relationships, through which people are overtly amiable and helpful. There is not so much customer service as there is kindness and personal relationships. If you’re nice, people will reciprocate. If you enter a store and simply say hello, you will be well respected.
Hearing Nita speak definitely opened Florence up to me, and explained a lot of the traditions and customs that I have seen but not quite understood.

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!