Milan, Italy. A cultural and fashion hub. Less than a two-hour train ride away from Florence, it was our first academic trip of the year. We were there for the end of Milan fashion week and the final month of Milano World Expo 2015. It was a whirlwind of trip that gave us inspiration and insight into the design process from Dolce & Gabbana, White Trade Show, the Ratti Factory in Como, and Armani’s new museum.
The trip started bright and early last Sunday. We were all ready at the train station before 8am. A mob of students was crowding the Santa Maria Novella train station. We were taking one of the express trains that morning and after arriving, going straight to the World Expo 2015. The Expo is a Universal Exhibition that Milan has been hosting since May 1st and it continues until October 31st. During these six months Milan becomes a global showcase where more than 140 participating countries show the best of their technology that offers an answer to this years theme, being able to guarantee healthy, safe, and sufficient food for everyone while still respecting the planet.
The Expo was spectacular, each country had their own pavilion and within it you got to experience their culture and their values through architecture, art, and food. In addition to their answer to sustainably feeding the planet: the theme of Expo. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was buzzing. There never seemed to be an end in sight and you could visit as many countries as you wanted in one day. I myself managed to travel to seven.
Photos (from left to right) Thailand Pavilion, Argentina Pavilion, United Kingdom Pavilion
The rest of our trip was all about design. Starting with the Dolce and Gabbana factory. We got to take a look at the all the steps of the design process from concept to pattern in the pattern making room where concept boards and fabric hung from the walls and garment racks were full of pattern pieces and muslin samples. In the sample sewing room, women were hand-sewing sequins and jewels to garments and racks of completed samples hung in the corner. We even saw a sample of one of the dresses that had walked down the runway the day before. On to production where plotters were printing the pattern pieces to be cut out in the next room on tables that were as long as runways and lastly the shipping department. In there it was like the scene from Monster’s Inc. where the requested doors come sliding from a rack in the celling from a large warehouse, but instead beautiful garments in clear garment bags whizzed by your head on their way to quality control. Every single step of the way showed just how important every person is.
Here is both FD1 and FD2 with Professor Vivarelli, our Draping and Pattern making teacher.
After the factory tour we went to the White Trade Show. This event is in the Tortona District of Fashion in Milan and is attended by more than 20,000 buyers and 1,000 journalists. There were mini-showrooms sets throughout a huge warehouse. Different designers of shoes, accessories, and clothes were spread out. There are people everywhere, buyers placing orders, journalists taking pictures, and students like us roaming around in awe. The designers on display had everything, menswear and all sections of women’s wear, accessories, and lots of beautiful shoes. We were there for two hours and barely scratched the surface of the sprawling warehouses. Two warehouses to be exact that were a labyrinth of spring/summer 2016. I only managed to see a tiny corner of what was offered.
Photo: White Trade Show Photo: Enjoying our first evening in Milan
On Tuesday, we headed to Lake Como. A beautiful city nestled at the bottom of the Alps that separate Italy from Switzerland. There, we visited the Ratti factory and the Ratti Foundation. The foundation is a small museum where they keep their archives of textiles and clothing, some from over 200 years ago. It’s located looking onto the lake where you can see the city of Como on the other side and the imposing Alps. At the factory they make and print the fabric for some of the most important designers. They only work with natural fabrics, such as cotton, silk, linen, and wool. The building was a fortress that has been the Ratti Company’s home since the 1960’s. 24 design students wandered in awe as we saw Louis Vuitton and Dior fabrics being woven, watching each individual line of the fabric appear. Ferragamo ties being screen-printed by hand, blank fabric was placed underneath the giant screens where the man operating it then passed, what looked like a large squeegee, over the screen to apply the color to the fabric. For the three colors that were on this tie, each one was applied separately. Of course the highlight was the outlet store, where I myself got a gorgeous silk scarf for 10 euro.
Photos: Garments on display at the Ratti Foundation Photo: Stamp wall at Ratti Factory
Our final morning in Milan had us standing in a mostly empty piazza in front of the infamous Duomo. The sun hanging directly behind it so it’s shadow cascaded over us. We walked along the rooftop where you can see the sprawling city of Milan and the Alps in the distance. The gorgeous gothic church was captivating and there is nothing quite as unique as being able to stand directly on top of the roof. The final stop, Armani. To celebrate the 40th year of style, Armani opened this museum. The name Silos comes from the previous use of the four story building, storage for grains. Now it contains the history and beauty of Armani. Set with personal audio guides, we walked in an awed silence from room to room. Each room different from the next based on the themes. There was mood music, incense, and beautifully decorated walls to evoke the theme of each room. It was the perfect way to end our trip in Milan. With invaluable insight into the design making process, we all left inspired and tired from the whirlwind of a week.