Our study abroad students share their personal experiences in Cortona. From the plane ride to the universities and from the monuments and museums to the seaside, you'll hear first-hand details of their Cortona adventures.
November 11, 2022
Italy is one of the most significant fashion powers in the world known for its exquisite craftsmanship.
November 11, 2022
It is widely accepted that a culture's fashion, largely because it is a tangible reflection of current tastes and trends.
November 10, 2022
Dolce and Gabbana were established in Milan in 1985 by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana
November 10, 2022
Italy burst onto the fashion scene around the middle of the 20th century.
November 10, 2022
Throughout the years fashion designers have been combining fashion with art.
November 10, 2022
Why is there so much controversy in the fashion industry?
November 10, 2022
Women’s fashion differs all over the world, especially when it comes to different regions and cultures.
November 09, 2022
Italy has made an indelible mark on the fashion industry.
November 08, 2022
Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman, and the legacy of Salvatore Ferragamo is no exception.
November 08, 2022
Western societies have an extensive, documented history regarding the business of second-hand clothing.
November 04, 2022
What is the Dover Street Market?
November 01, 2022
From London to Arezzo, there are Zara bags on the arm of every stylish man or woman on the streets of Europe.
November 01, 2022
All the new fall trends were either featured on the runway or displayed by celebrities who were in attendance.
November 01, 2022
Menswear hasn’t always been the talk of the town.
November 01, 2022
Starting our journey three hundred years ago, a rare English mantua stands alone.
October 28, 2022
Students were provided with the option of visiting the Africa Fashion Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
October 25, 2022
Born in the warm glow of the early 1970s in Naples, Paolo Scafora grew up learning the trade of shoe-making from his father.
October 25, 2022
We spent the first 5 days of the 2022 Cortona Study Away program in the United Kingdom.
October 18, 2022
Technology is infiltrating into the retail industry today and is drastically shifting how the workforce functions.
What’s Really Hiding in the Average Italian’s Closet
November 11, 2022
Italy is one of the most significant fashion powers in the world known for its exquisite craftsmanship, traditional artisanal skills, expert tailoring, and high-quality materials. Italians’ attention to detail is what sets them apart from the rest of the global fashion scene. Italians are known for having a classic and timeless sense of style that reflects la dolce vita (the sweet life). They are also known to have fewer clothing items than, say Americans, but of a higher quality. They also respect and genuinely value the “Made in Italy'' label. This raises the question: Where do Italians shop and acquire their wardrobe? Do most Italians shop for luxury items, considering that Italy is known for their luxe brands like Versace, Prada, Gucci, etc., or do they only pretend to value Italian made products and actually shop mass produced clothing, or, something in between? Age, social class, and geographic location, are just a few of the impacting factors for where Italian consumers shop.
Italy is a world-renowned fashion hub that is synonymous with luxury fashion. High- quality leather and fur products, artisanal craft pieces have become some of the most sought-after products in the global fashion industry. Italian luxury is a highly coveted commodity that isn’t meant for everyone. It is aimed at the most exclusive and those who intend to splurge every now-and-then. While Italian craft is almost always linked with luxury goods, yet, this doesn’t reflect the majority of the Italian population’s fashion consumption. Most Italians shop with quality over quantity in mind. However, they aren’t able to afford the hefty price tag that comes with designer goods. They tend to wait for the “saldi” period, or sale period— January to February for the Winter sale and July to September for the Summer sale— in order to get the most bang for their buck (Mascolo, 2021). On one hand, most consumers shop “from mass retailers and large companies, especially in bigger cities,” while the older generations tend to seek out “specialist products and services” (Italy, 2022). Seniors have a higher median standard of living than younger people, which influences where they spend their money (Italy, 2022). While Italians, in general, opt for the “Made in Italy” tag, it isn’t a necessity, especially for young people. Older people prefer certain type of goods and are considered more brand loyal than the youth who are more open to new and up-and-coming brands. Overall, Italian consumers’ purchasing power has declined in intensity due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as because of inflation and the war in Ukraine (Italy, 2022). Because of this, consumers are buying less, fewer expensive things, and more of what they truly need. Despite this, they continue to focus on quality over quantity; that remains steadfast rule for the community.
Depending on where in Italy one is located definitely influences how Italians shop. The fashion capital of Italy is Milan, but honorable mentions go to Rome and Florence as well. Milan is home to two of the most prominent high-end streets, Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, home to some of the world’s most luxe brands. Rome’s most notable shopping street is Via del Corso, while Florence’s is Via Roma and Via dei Calzaiuoli. These streets are filled with high-end shops and brands that appeal to the small population that can afford them as well as, of course, tourists. Since these cities have a large focus on luxury fashion, much of the local population ends up shopping at mass retailers for convenience and price. In smaller cities that are not as touristy, people tend to patronize small businesses and boutiques that cater for the local population. Although they may not boast the price tag of a luxury brand, they definitely maintain the quality that Italy is so well-known for. Florence is especially known for their leather, so just about everyone is sporting a good-quality real leather jacket, not just in Florence but all throughout Tuscany, and Italy at large. The price tag ranges from thousands of dollars to a couple of hundred for a decent quality leather product. There are also street vendors that sell leather goods for a much cheaper price, but those generally are of cheaper quality or are knockoffs. Ultimately, in large cities, mass retailers are often the go-to shopping venues of city dwellers, while in smaller cities– that may not even have mass retail shops–artisanal boutiques.
Some of the most notable Italian luxury brands that carry a great deal of weight are Versace, Prada, Gucci, Missoni, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, Max Mara, Etro, and many more. These are just a handful of the most elite high fashion Italian brands. Even though they may be outwardly representing the Italian fashion industry, their prices make their products practically inaccessible to the general population. Some lesser-known brands that still boast Italian craftsmanship but are slightly more accessible and affordable include: Diesel, FILA, Barba Napoli, Kiton, Santoni, Premiata, Luigi Borrelli, Paul&Shark, and Kired. Maybe a couple of these brands are more well known, but the rest of these brands are do not really have name recognition. Nevertheless, their products are more accessible due to their lower price range to the upper-to-upper middle class Italian consumer. The average Italian consumer, the majority of the population, shop mass retail brands, Italian (United Colors of Benetton, Calzedonia, Tezenis, Miroglio, etc.) and non-Italian (H&M, Zara, Oysho, Stradivarius, etc.). These attract the middle-class consumer as their price range is the most affordable. While not all are considered fast fashion retailers, the quality of Italian artisanal skills, craftsmanship, and high-quality materials are definitely sacrificed for the lower prices. Some brands though, like United Colors of Benetton, are able to find a happy medium with quality and accessible cost, but the majority of younger and middle-class consumers shop at various mass retailers. Local boutiques are also often able to find a balance between quality and cost, usually targeting the upper-middle class. These stores are often family-owned and value customer loyalty. They tend to appeal primarily to the local population in small towns, and tourists in larger cities. Italian fashion is definitely represented and reflected in the wares these local boutiques offer. However, they do not make up the majority of Italian consumption.
An Italian’s closet is not filled with an abundance of colors highlighting each and every latest trend. Instead, Italians’ wardrobes boast simple, timeless, multi-functional, and classic pieces. While Italian fashion is characterized by traditional artisanal techniques, skilled craftsmanship, and high-quality materials, this is not entirely representative of what is in the closet of the average Italian consumer. Age, economic status, and location of the individual very much influences where the majority of Italians shop. However, this doesn’t mean they are only pretending to care for the renowned quality of Italian fashion, it simply means that most of their closet is likely not made up of it. Italians would rather lavishly spend on classic pieces like a good quality leather jacket and trench coat than drop hundreds at a fast fashion retailer or thousands on a single, unique luxury item. While the wardrobes of Italians are filled with a variety of pieces that reflect their appreciation for Italian craft, their actual content mostly depends on their social, economic, and geographical status.
Inaya Raffie Bhai
Hamish, H. (2022, June 20). The best affordable luxury Italian designer brands in 2022/23. IsuiT. Retrieved from https://isuit.it/blog/the-best-affordable-italian-designer-brands-2021-22
Italy: Reaching the consumers. Reaching the Consumers in Italy. (2022, October). https://www.attijaritrade.ma/en/choose-your-markets/country-profiles/italy/reaching-the-consumers
Mascolo, N. (2021, February 1). Shopping in Italy: 23 smart tips to shop like a local. Italian Viaggio. Retrieved from https://italianviaggio.com/shopping-in-italy-23-smart-tips-to-shop-like-a-local/
Smith, P. (2021, November 1). Italy: Leading fashion retailers by stores 2020. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/950225/leading-fashion-retailers-number-of-outlets-italy/
A History of Gender-Bending and Genderless Clothing in Italian Culture and Fashion
November 11, 2022
It is widely accepted that a culture's fashion, largely because it is a tangible reflection of current tastes and trends, is reflective of societal norms, expectations, and roles. Counterculture often arises out of necessity - a need within a society to push boundaries, develop sub-cultures, and question authority. Some of the most influential fashion styles came from counterculture, started by people that swam against the tide and expanded boundaries in multiple ways. In a heavily Catholic and traditional society such as Italy, counterculture and unique dress face challenges when it comes to acceptance and access. But like every other place on the planet, the groups that question and push societal norms also exist in Italy and continue to expand the traditional gender binary. Specifically gendered clothing, an expectation and association so rooted in western clothing, has been disputed. “Gender-bending”, or blurring the lines between masculine and feminine clothing, has always existed in Italy despite periods of its general rejection or unpopularity. Today, genderless clothing or gender-swapping attire is more common and is being explored by designers and Italians alike.
A recognizable term for gender-swapping clothes is “cross-dressing”, a term that is outdated and reinforces the gender binary of what men’s and women’s clothing “should only be,” according to the status quo. Cross-dressing is often associated with transvestitism, another outdated term that refers to a person, often a man, who dresses in clothes aligned with the opposite gender. These terms have their historical significance and place, but today they are commonly accepted as a way to box-in or even discriminate against people who dress in this manner. Additionally, transvestitism was erroneously equated to transgenderism or homosexuality. However, it is important to separate these identities, because gender-swapping or genderless clothing does not ultimately determine if an individual is queer. In addition, it is vital to place these terms and trends in their historical context. This sub-culture is immensely important to not only queer culture, but cultures globally. Italy is no exception and had its fair share of experimentation with sartorial expression.
Documentation of blurring the binary gender lines in Italian fashion dates all the way back to the Renaissance. Originally from a place of sexism, men would dress up as women for plays as women were not allowed on stage. However, once women made their way to the stage, several plays maintained their element of cross dressing, even having men who are dressed as women fall in love with a woman, seriously pushing what was considered appropriate in Italy. According to Winifred Schleiner, a Renaissance scholar, “Renaissance romances contain quite a few episodes in which a male protagonist for reasons of intrigue, love stratagem, or escape from danger puts on female clothes and baffles the bystanders by his beauty, a situation quite in conflict with the male macho prototype of the hero typically presented in modern romance, whether from the screen or the newsstand” (Schleiner, 1988, p. 607). These simply theatrical displays of cross-dressing, however, became popularized and partially paved the way for people to participate off-stage. He continues by declaring that “Just as the cross-dressing allows for the topic of homosexuality to be raised, so it highlights, possibly in all literary periods, male-female differences and cultural gender stereotypes” (Schleiner,1988, p. 615).
Later in the 18th century, men dressing in stereotypically feminine clothes gained a surge of popularity. This trend was notably common in Naples, where cross-dressing was more accepted in comparison to other places in Italy. Although there is little documentation of this sub-culture, a painting by Giuseppe Bonito in 1740 titled Il Femminiello displays a man dressing another man in jewelry as he wears a dress. As stated by the Portland Museum of Art, “This recently discovered painting from the mid-eighteenth century is a testament to the exceptional and long-standing acceptance of cross-dressers known as femminielli in the great Italian city of Naples. The term, which might be translated “little female-men,” is not derogatory, but rather an expression of endearment.” The inclusion of femminielli as opposed to its total suppression highlights the gradual erosion of the stagnant and suffocating gender norms of Italian fashion. (See Fig 1) Later in the 20th century, Italian film harkened back to the gender-swapping elements of its Renaissance past by including crossdressers in movies such as Cretinetti che bello! (1909), Il candidato femminista (1910), and Madamigella Robinet (1913). Often used in a comedic sense, these movies featured men dressed as women performing slapstick comedy. Writer Emma Morton claims “For the cinematic crossdresser it is the conflict between performance and construction of gender that marks the cross-dresser as ambiguous. Cross-dressing highlights gender as a construction and subverts this construction by calling attention to the artifice of gender identity”. Unfortunately, due to Italy’s traditional culture those who did dress in the opposite gender’s clothing were mocked.
Although not as common, women also participated in the display of gender-bending clothing. Judith Bennett, professor at the University of Southern California, states that “cross-dressing by women is not a recent phenomenon, but instead has a scattered but fairly continuous history that stretches back centuries” and can be tied directly to Italian history, stating “Women in Venice, Florence and Rome were frequently cited by local courts for wearing men's clothes.” Specifically in Venice in the 16th century, illustrated costume and fashion books of the current trends were common and included women wearing men’s pants, tights, and shoes underneath their skirts. (See Fig 2) Author Marcella Sutcliffe reinforces this, stating “Cross-dressing during the Risorgimento [the Italian unification] was one of the most immediately available strategies for women to blur gender boundaries and enter the public space” (Sutcliffe, 2015, p. 181).
Within the modern and postmodern age, these confines become less restricting. Despite some resistance from those who are more conservative in Italy, being the fashion hub that it is has required some alignment with the times and the adoption of a more fluid outlook on gendered clothing. Specifically, up-and-coming Naples-native designer Alessandro Trincone is trail-blazing the androgynous Italian fashion scene. After gaining popularity for designing a feminine outfit worn by Young Thug on his “Jeffery” album cover (See Fig 3), Trincone has released several collections, almost always only including men wearing dresses, heels, skirts, and makeup. His designs include lots of frills, tulle, sequins, glitter, lace, and light colors, all of which are typically associated with womenswear. When asked about a collection during a 2018 Vogue interview, he said: “The collection embodies the strength that resides in each of us, celebrating the courage of those who dare to believe in themselves at any cost, breaking all the common places related to sexuality and gender – and severely criticizing those who succumb to our bigoted society.”
On a larger scale, name brands are also stepping into the androgynous scene. Most recognizable is Gucci, who in 2020 put Harry Styles in a blue laced gown for Vogue’s first solo male cover. (See Fig 4) This bold statement was met with immense success, and Gucci continues to design and sell dresses that have an ambiguous gender target market. Additionally, major Italian brand, Diesel, has also branched out into the androgynous scene, marketing womenswear that is more functional and boyish. The silhouettes in such cases are not exaggerated or feminine, but rather comfortable and practical. They have also cast androgynous or gender-ambiguous models in their advertisements, and included looks that are outside the conventional gender binary. Women sport leather jackets, short hair, and masculine poses. (See Fig 5) This exposure to genderless clothing allows people to wear what they want without having to attach a label. Italian designers today are making great strides in eliminating the confining gendered restrictions in appearance. The current direction of a more genderless fashion industry is supported by the rich history of gender-bending clothing throughout Italy’s culture.
- Bennet, Judith. “Context in Source Publication”. researchgate.net, 2014. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/In-this-image-from-a-later-sixteenth-century-Italian-costume-book-the-Venetian-courtesan_fig1_265835617. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
- De Ceglia, Giusy. “Alessandro Trincone at the New York Fashion Week. Our Interview.” Vogue.it, 10 July 2018, www.vogue.it/en/vogue-talents/news/2018/07/10/alessandro-trincone-new-york-fashion-week-spring-summer-2019/?refresh_ce=. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
- Morton, Emma. “Cross-Dressing and the Comedy of Masculinity in Early Italian Film · Learning on Screen.” Learningonscreen.ac.uk, learningonscreen.ac.uk/viewfinder/articles/cross-dressing-and-the-comedy-of-masculinity/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
- Schleiner, Winfried. “Male Cross-Dressing and Transvestism in Renaissance Romances.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 19, no. 4, 1988, pp. 605–19. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/2540989. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
- Sutcliffe, MP. “Italian Women in the Making: Re-reading the Englishwoman’s Review” Palgrace Macmillan, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137297723_8. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
- “Il Femminiello.” Portland Art Museum, portlandartmuseum.org/learn/educators/resources/posters/il-femminiello/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
#Cancel Dolce and Gabbana
November 10, 2022
The brand Dolce and Gabbana was established in Milan in 1985 by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The two met when they were both assistant designers at the same company. Shortly after the two met, they established the brand Dolce and Gabbana and have remained collaborators to this day. Since their first collection release, the D & G group has faced much backlash and controversy.
In 2012, the brand sent white models down the runway wearing earrings that were eerily similar to colonial "Blackamoor” statues. The issue was that the depiction of the figures on the earrings was racist. (Figure 1)
The history and connection of Blackamoor need first to be established before it is interpreted. Blackamoor art is a European style of decorative art in which dark-skinned, usually male human figures, are depicted in a stylized and ornate form. Blackamoor often appears in jewelry design but has also been used in homewares, for statues to guard doors, or as figures in crazy contortions holding up a tray to be used as tables. Venice's history has been tied to blackamoor jewelry since the 16th century showcasing Italian skill and excellence in handcrafts.
Although rarely talked about, slavery was a part of life in the European Renaissance; many people were captured from Northern Europe and the Baltic regions and sold to slave markets. Black Africans and Muslims were also brought into Europe, and many landed in Venetian households as enslaved people. Historic writings during the time in Venice would praise the Moors for their physical prowess, strength, and skills such as dancing and singing. During this time, "Moors'' were seen as noblemen and would be employed as bodyguards because the Venetians were impressed by their fighting skills. These slaves would also be dressed up in exotic fine jewelry and clothes. Today, throughout Venice, you will see statues of blackamoor heads used as door knockers, handles of Venetian homes, and sculptures. Dolce and Gabanna were trying to use their Italian background and history to make the blackamoor a work of art, just as many other brands, such as Cartier and Nardi Jewelers, have done. (Figure 2)
However, when they tried to pay homage to their history, they attracted much criticism. While artistic depictions of the Moor were once seen as objects of awe by the European masses and signaled their fascination with people and parts of the world that they knew little about, it is now seen as an association with the slave trade and colonial hierarchy.
Dolce and Gabanna wanted to represent their Italian heritage. However, there are many better ways to do so than profit off of the history of slavery while white models walk down the runway wearing these earrings. The models wearing the earrings show they are in control, and these black, ornate figures are just decorations and prizes. It illustrates that their freedom, life, and past do not matter, they are only used as decorations.
Following the 2012 criticism of Dolce and Gabbana’s use of racist iconography as jewelry, they came out with "The Slave Sandal." It was a part of their 2016 collection, "a declaration of love to Italy," and was on sale for $2,395. The shoe has brightly colored pom poms that align with the front strap and the ends of the ankle strings. It also has gold and jeweled embellishments on the strap, giving it an ornate look. The term "slave sandal" came from the term once used to describe a lace-up shoe silhouette, but is no longer used. Using this language in the 20th century, only shows Dolce and Gabanna’s privilege and insensitivity. (Figure 3)
Another example of Dolce and Gabbana’s controversial acts happened during Trump's presidency. In 2018, when he was talking about immigrants he said: "Those are people, these are animals." When police officers killed George Floyd, he tweeted, "when the lootings start, the shooting starts." When referring to the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino men wrongly accused of assaulting a female jogger, he also said, "they should be executed." Due to his offensive remarks, many designers spoke out and refused to dress the First Lady, Melania Trump, as they did not want to be associated with the couple and their politics. However, no surprise, Dolce and Gabbana ended up in the other camp and became great supporters of Melania. When she came into the White House, she wore a Dolce and Gabbana coat costing $51,500. Stefano Gabbana went ahead and reposted the photos of her wearing their design, clearly showing that the brand supported what Trump was doing and saying as President. Shortly after, people launched a campaign to "boycott" the brand. Dolce and Gabbana then released tees that read #Boycott Dolce and Gabbana" and released a video of a mock protest. The D&G group has no remorse for the families and people affected by Trump's decisions as President and instead sees it as a way for them to mock minority groups and create profits. (Figure 5)
Dolce and Gabbana not only mocked the Italian history of slavery and European colonialism, and made degrading racist remarks but, in 2018, put three short videos on the Chinese social media network Weibo to promote their upcoming Shanghai runway, called the "The Great Show." The video depicts an Asian woman dressed in a beautiful, exquisite Dolce and Gabbana dress attempting to eat spaghetti, pizza, and cannoli. In the background, a voiceover comes on and states: "Welcome to the first episode of 'Eating with Chopsticks' by Dolce & Gabbana' —purposefully pronounced incorrectly in a way that mocks Chinese speech." The video proceeds to continue as the male voice mansplains to the young girl how she should eat the dishes. He continues by making rude comments such as "Is it too big for you" when the woman attempts to eat the cannoli, for its mockery goes even further when the voice tells her, "Let us use these small stick-like things to eat our great pizza Margherita," referring to her chopsticks. This was another explicit racist move by the Italian Luxury brand. Within 24 hours of posting the videos, Dolce and Gabbana removed them. However, hours before "The Great Show," screenshots of a chat between Stefano Gabbana and a user went viral when Stefano, proceeded to call China the "country of [five poop emojis]" and "ignorant dirty smelling mafia." The tweet went viral, hundreds of Chinese actors and models pulled out of the show, and Dolce's Chinese brand ambassador, Wang Junkai, ended their deal with them.
Dolce and Gabbana have faced numerous scandals because of racism and homophobia. They have a history of ignorant and insensitive remarks, advertisements, and collections. It is already bad enough to have a luxury brand with a marketing team that allows one mishap; however, Dolce and Gabbana have had multiple controversies. The job of a fashion brand is to make people feel good in their clothing and want to represent the logo and what the company stands for, not to put others down or make them feel less. Dolce and Gabbana have proven again and again that they are not here to support diversity. The company is still led by the same two people who created it in 1985, and these various incidents should be thought about before choosing to display their designs and history on one's body.
Jayden Natalie Worswick
(2021, May 18). History And Significance Of The Dolce & Gabbana Logo | LOGO.com. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://logo.com/blog/dolce-gabbana-logo
(2022, September 26). Dolce & Gabbana's History of Racism and Homophobia - Highsnobiety. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/dolce-gabbana-alta-moda-venice/
(n.d.). Blackamoor Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blackamoor
(2018, January 10). BAJ Insight: Is blackamoor jewellery racist?. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://baj.ac.uk/baj-insight-is-blackamoor-jewellery-racist/
(2019, November 26). People of Color in Renaissance Venice - Laura Morelli. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://lauramorelli.com/people-color-renaissance-venice/
(2016, March 4). A Sandal's Name Has Dolce & Gabbana Under Fire Again. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/fashion/dolce-gabbana-slave-sandal.html
(2020, October 30). Fact check: 12 of 28 Trump comments deemed racist are direct speech. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/30/fact-check-12-28-trump-comments-deemed-racist-direct-speech/6062530002/
(2017, June 14). D&G Is Selling "Boycott D&G" Shirts In Response to Melania Trump .... Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.elle.com/fashion/news/a46002/boycott-dolce-gabbana-shirt/
(2019, January 23). 'Racist' D&G ad: Chinese model says campaign almost ruined career. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-46968750
(n.d.). The Country of Origin Effect in Dolce & Gabbana's Commercial, “DG .... Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://tortoise.princeton.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/338/2020/05/Charles_62_PDF-1.pdf
Mely’s: A Case Study on Italian Knitwear
November 10, 2022
Ever since Italy burst onto the fashion scene around the middle of the 20th century, facilitated by financial aid from the United States following the Second World War, Italian knitwear has been one of the most sought-after commodities on the global fashion scene (Curcio, 2019). As a consequence of the resulting fashion and textile industry boom, many new companies were born. Often times, these companies would start as small family operations that would build over time and be passed down from generation to generation.
A great example of a company which has followed this model and still continues to flourish today is Mely’s. Mely’s is a knitwear manufacturing firm founded in 1956 by Amelia Donati [Fig 1] (Mely’s Company, n.d.). Prior to officially starting the company, Donati continued to perfect her craft of knitwear and then began fostering connections and partnerships. Then in 1956, Amelia Donati travelled to France with her husband Italo Sanarelli after her gut feeling told her that someone special was waiting for her in Paris. That aforementioned “special someone” turned out to be Monsieur Bosque [Fig 2], the head of the purchasing department at Gallerie Lafayette (Mely’s Company, n.d.). This newfound connection led to Donati’s first major order, marking the official start of Mely’s rise. Italo joined the company soon after and took the company to new heights with his strong entrepreneurial drive.
Mely’s saw their greatest growth surge in the 1970s when Italy was experiencing an economic boom. The boom allowed for Mely’s to invest more in their workforce, providing better education for women, more advanced technologies, and more in-depth training. This period, also resulted in Mely’s building an impressive client base, establishing partnerships with top haute couture and ready-to-wear luxury fashion brands. In the eighties, Mely’s broke ties with their sales office in Florence with the decision to reallocate their resources to research and development and investment in higher quality yarns (Mely’s Company, n.d.). They follow the same path today as Mely’s continually strives to make the best garments possible and let the products speak for themselves.
Today, Mely’s is run by Amelia and Italo’s son and his wife: Marco Sanarelli and Daniela Zuccherelli. In more recent years, Marco and Daniela’s three daughters [Fig 3] – Maria Chiara (head operations manager), Maria Elena (head of research and development), and Maria Laura (member of the quality control team) – have joined the company team (Mely’s Company, n.d.). With the company now largely in the hands of the third generation, Mely’s epitomizes the trope of the Italian artisanal family business.
Although Mely’s started from humble beginnings with a minimal workforce and executing all areas of the knitting process by hand, the company now boasts a workforce of roughly 110 employees (Mely’s Philosophy, n.d.) in addition to a multitude of top-of-the-line machinery to aid in the garment making process. The impressive machines at Mely’s are designed by the German tech company Stoll and aid in all areas of the knitwear process from prototype creation to final garment manufacturing (Mely’s Knitwear, n.d.).
Last week, I had the opportunity to join my class on a trip to visit Mely’s main office and manufacturing facilities on the outskirts of Arezzo. During out visit, we had the privilege to sit in on talks about the company from Maria Chiara, Maria Elena, and head of the company, Marco Sanarelli. During these talks, they gave us an in-depth overview of the company, starting with Mely’s roots to present-day operations. After the presentation on Mely’s history and operations, Maria Elena was kind enough to pull out some knit fabric samples [Fig 4 – Fig 8] for us to look at as she discussed the company’s ongoing research efforts. Throughout her talk, she explained that at Mely’s, they are always working on research and development, searching for better designs and more innovative garment construction. This extensive research is done so that when fashion houses approach them to execute a design, they are already equipped with the knowledge and experience to bring the design to production.
Following the presentations on the company’s history and their research department, Maria Chiara led us on a tour of their facilities. She led us first to the bottom floor where all the yarns for production are stored [Fig 9]. From there, we travelled through the factory, getting a glimpse of the knitwear production cycle from start to finish. Throughout the factory, I saw a number of garments in production for some of the top fashion houses such as Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, and Mely’s own in-house knitwear brand: Avril 8790.
After the conclusion of the factory tour, we returned to Mely’s conference room for any final questions we may have had for Marco Sanarelli, Maria Chiara, and Maria Elena. Throughout the tour and presentations, it struck me as odd that even though Mely’s is based in Italy and prides themselves on Italian craftsmanship, the majority of their clients are French fashion houses. After pondering on this idea for a bit, I asked Marco Sanarelli why this is the case. His answer was two pronged. First, he answered that the majority of their clients happen to be French because the majority of French fashion houses have been around far longer and are more established than most Italian fashion houses. Thus, when Mely’s was gaining its first major clients in the seventies and eighties, there was a greater number of established French fashion houses in the industry than Italian fashion houses. The second part of his answer was that even though these houses are French, they are still chasing after that “Made in Italy” tag on their clothes because they know it will result in higher sales for them.
Italy has become renowned for its craftsmanship and artisanal goods and clothes, and Mely’s is very much a part of Italian excellence. Mely’s also takes great pride in their products because they are completely “Made in Italy.” At one point during the tour, Maria Chiara explained how this has at times been a drawback for them. She detailed a scenario in which one of their big clients placed an order for a few hundred garments of a new design they had created. The issue was that the design contained some intricate embroidery that required a master of the craft to complete. Maria Chiara claimed she could only think of roughly 25 workers in the whole nation capable of carrying out that design. If Mely’s had been able to outsource the job to another nation with a larger workforce with more experience in the craft, like India, then the production time and cost would go down drastically, but since they must strictly adhere to the principle that production has to be done solely within Italy, this could not be done.
This visit to Mely’s, made possible through my study abroad trip in Cortona, granted me a broader, more in-depth view of the fashion industry. The Sanarelli family was incredibly kind and welcoming on our visit and shared a great deal of valuable information around the success of their business. Because of this opportunity, I now have a better understanding of the world I will soon be entering into as a fashion merchandising student.
Curcio, J. (2019, Feb. 19). The History of Italian Fashion. CR Fashion Book. https://crfashionbook.com/fashion-a26330899-history-of-italian-fashion-designers/
Mely’s. (n.d.). Company. https://www.melys.it/en/company/
Mely’s. (n.d.). Experience. https://www.melys.it/en/experience/
Mely’s. (n.d.). Knitwear. https://www.melys.it/en/knitwear/
Mely’s. (n.d.). Philosophy. https://www.melys.it/en/philosophy/
Gucci’s Race to Redefine Luxury Fashion
November 10, 2022
Throughout the years fashion designers have been combining fashion with art in order to redefine what luxury really means. Gucci, a company famous for staying on trend with millennials, is evolving into an art-driven company under its creative leadership. One revolutionary vision brought to life by Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, is the Gucci Garden. Created in 2011, Alessandro describes the Gucci Garden as his laboratory for creative exploration. The “garden” is located in Florence, where fashion is thriving in the streets and most tourists are eager to experience some form of intellectual stimulation.
In an interview, Michele talked about his creative process of establishing the Gucci Garden. As he put it: “It was from the gut, from instinct, and from me being an eclectic person who easily falls in love and just as easily gets bored, I need to feel constantly challenged and a little uncomfortable. Everything we’ve done wasn’t because we were complacent, it was born out of a sort of discomfort.” This discomfort created a place full of history and modernism, expressed through complex multimedia experiences.
Each room in the Garden’s current exhibition represents a different archetype of the House’s campaigns from the last six years. The “Dionysus Dance Cruise” from the 2016 campaign consists of a maze full of mirrors that have video ads projected on them to make the viewer feel as if they were included in the ad as well. The “Tokyo Lights” room from the 2016 fall/winter campaign consists of a sensory overload of lights and noise with a Japanese truck and Gucci pieces spread out inside the walls. One of the more ethereal rooms was the “#inbloom” space -- a garden full of flowers and foliage with a single couch placed directly in the middle. Other rooms consisted of wax figures wearing Gucci pieces, placed in different scenes throughout history to help the viewer understand the evolutionary process the company went through to be where they are today. Each installment represents a different theme such as beauty, sexuality, identity, and innocence. Alessandro finds different ways to spark conversation through the use of contemporary art of storytelling. This special way of storytelling is what led to Gucci’s success, and it is still continuing today through in-store experiences like these. Alessandro explained why he created the Gucci Garden by saying “I created a playground of emotions that are the same as in the campaigns because they are the most explicit journey into my imagery.” This playground of emotions created throughout multiple rooms is necessary for younger generations that have been stuck and secluded in their bedroom the past few years.
The Covid-19 outbreak radically changed the way people operate and interact with each other. If we are not overly stimulated every second of the day, we get bored. Multiple case studies have shown that the pandemic significantly changed the nature of social interactions. Because of this, Gucci collaborated with Roblox to create a virtual reality Gucci Garden in the metaverse. It was opened in May 2021. It is also a space where special edition luxury items can be purchased by players. Just like in the real Gucci Garden, items were hidden around the space and, if found, could only be obtained through nonfungible tokens (NFTs).
NFTs are used by companies like Gucci to create an emotional connection with consumers and make the items feel more tangible. The Gucci items sold in the metaverse are much more attainable due to their extreme price difference. The lower prices make it possible for people to own luxury items without having to break their bank account. Rodrigo Leme, a technological researcher, stated “…kids under the age of 13 are already spending more time on Roblox than any social media platform combined. Parents are becoming accustomed to paying for their kid's virtual assets.” These assets include dressing their virtual avatars, which means more profits for companies like Gucci. Another virtual platform Gucci partnered with was Tennis Clash, where players could try on different Gucci items that represent them. They also created a collection of digital sneakers that consumers could try on using augmented reality. Other companies like Louis Vuitton have created digital realities where consumers can immerse themselves in the high fashion realm. It may be online, but the future of fashion and our world is set to be in a doppelganger universe, where you live your virtual life the same way you live your physical life. Trying on digital clothing will be something people will be accustomed to. Robert Triefus, the Chief Marketing Officer of Gucci states, “Luxury has always been a virtual tool by which we augment ourselves. Labels operate as powerful signifiers; design transcends function.”
Unlike other companies, Gucci’s relationship with younger generations is unmatched. Last year 62 percent of Gucci’s sales came from people 35 years old or younger, which means most of their customers are either millennials or generation Z. Their logo has become so much of a status symbol that most consumers buying the brand do not care about the condition of the item, as long as it has GUCCI written on it somewhere.
Fanny Olander at Lund University interviewed students and asked them how they feel about the brand. One girl went to the Gucci Garden in Florence and when asked if she had planned on buying something she said “Yes. We went to Gucci Garden because I wanted something unique. Yet I ended up with a belt. It’s special though because it's from Gucci Garden. No one at home will have it for sure. Gucci is from Florence, as I’m sure you know, so it feels extra cool to have bought it here.” This shows just how effective the marketing of the brand is and how they use this to their advantage through popularizing mediocre products. The fact that the product is “Made in Italy” makes it seem even more exceptional, compared to other products.
Obtaining luxury products like Gucci makes members of the younger generation feel special, even if it is just for a moment. According to Sara Wildersdolf, partner and managing director at BCG stated in 2018 that “the percentage of younger generations luxury consumption was to double by 2020”. This growth is still prevalent today and can be shown through Kering’s numbers. The corporation that owns Gucci, reported a double digit increase in sales in 2021. This makes it necessary for Gucci to constantly reinvent itself; it has to stay in touch with trends created by generation Z. A lot of these trends come from social media, which also plays a big role in purchasing luxury items because people want to build an identity that is desired by others. The Gucci Garden helps build this identity through its exclusive atmosphere that is not actually exclusive at all. They are able to create the illusion of exclusivity through spaces that allow consumers to feel important and valued.
Luxury brands like Gucci flourish on the perception of exclusivity. It doesn’t matter if it is tangible or intangible, customers will buy their products if it means they have the chance to climb up the social ladder. By operating on a dissociated market, they can easily figure out what to sell through the use of social media platforms. Their race to become more accessible and less exclusive is shown through opening the Gucci Garden in both the real world and the metaverse.
My experience at the Gucci Garden was unexpected. Entering the doorway, I immediately became immersed into a different dimension. The colorful graffiti written on the walls quoting inspirational messages such as “vivre au present” (live in the present) made me feel like I was enlisted in a rebellious movement. A similar sense of belonging and togetherness was also felt throughout the rooms that consisted of flashing lights, bright colors, and mirrored mazes. Each room portrayed a different storyline where I was able to feel like the main character, even if it was just for a few fleeting moments. I felt it was exactly what the creative director Alexandro Michele wanted me to feel. The Gucci Garden is truly a place to forget about your responsibilities, escape for the duration of the visit from reality and immerse yourself in the beautiful presumptions of luxury fashion. If Gucci is able to continue to represent younger generations through recent trends and technological advancements, they will continue to be one of the most popular luxury brands in the world.
Ava R. Outzs
Kshetri, N. (2022). Economics of Nonfungible Tokens. Computer, 55(10), 94–99. https://doi.org/10.1109/mc.2022.3192701
Gucci. (2021, May 11). Gucci Garden Archetypes. Gucci.com; GuccI. https://www.gucci.com/uk/en_gb/st/stories/inspirations-and-codes/article/gucci-garden-archetypes
Gucci Garden Virtual Tour. (n.d.). Guccigarden.gucci.com. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://guccigarden.gucci.com/#/en/gucci-giardino-25
Olander, F. (n.d.). HAS GUCCI GONE TOO PREMIUM MEDIOCRE? An analytical discussion about the Florentine fashion house’s seemingly bottomless consumer range. https://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=8989308&fileOId=8989311
Jeremy Scott vs Moschino
November 10, 2022
Why is there so much controversy in the fashion industry? Why can’t the fashion industry be more sensitive to political issues? I believe it is because fashion designers will do whatever it takes to get to the top even if it means stepping on a few toes. One would think that times have changed and these designers should know better. Unfortunately, some of the most adored fashion brands have been accused of racism, sexual harassment, and labor issues. This then forces the brand to come out with a statement to apologize, but then continue to make the same “mistake.” Not only does it make the brand look bad, but the designer as well. This particularly brings attention to Jeremey Scott and the brand Moschino. Since 2014, the brand has been under his leadership as creative director and under his reign there has been much controversy regarding his design philosophy and execution.
The brand Moschino was founded by Franco Moschino in 1983. In the 80s-90s, the brand was known for its unique, playful and unapologetic expression against the fashion industry, political issues, and racism. Moschino was known as the enfant terrible of fashion. This label usually describes a person who behaves in an unconventional or controversial way. Franco always designed from a creative, yet political standpoint. He made fun of the fashion industry and wanted to make people laugh at it because he felt people took fashion too seriously (B, Roxi, 2021). He wasn’t afraid of being the topic of conversation. He wanted the industry to talk. Not only did he want to make people laugh, but he also wanted to bring awareness to issues happening in society. He used his platform to advocate for people who didn’t have a voice. He didn’t just sell clothes, but also ideas. Instead of traditional catwalks, Moschino would replace them with private showings that had themes such as raising awareness of drug abuse, climate change, violence, consumerism, pollution, racism, and the AIDS crisis (Chavez, 2018). He created campaigns with slogans such as, “Stop the fashion system”, “Enough! The sea is not your toilet,” and “No to racism” (See image 1). He even sent models down the runway with belts reading, “This is a waist of money” and a shirt with wrap-around straitjacket sleeves adorned with a “For fashion victims only” slogan. Despite Moschino’s early passing in 1994, he created a name for himself and earned respect for the brand. In celebration of ten years of being in the fashion industry, “X Years of Kaos” came to be his last exhibition.
Just like Moschino, Jeremy Scott also wants to make fashion fun and not so serious. However, many say he isn’t as outspoken and critical as Moschino was. That’s more of a personal opinion. Jeremey Scott tries to reciprocate what Moschino wanted for the brand. However, with today’s society issues are heavier and at times more complex and people are more vocal about their opinions. Many had already questioned Scott’s antics before joining the Moschino brand. His 2012 Adidas Roundhouse Mid “Handcuff” sneakers had heads turning and people talking as many viewed the shoe as an allusion to slavery (See image 2). The sneaker is also referenced as the “shackle sneaker,” which has resulted in an even more negative connotation. The shoe featured an orange plastic chain and cuff attachment on the heel which wraps around the ankle. Initially looking at the shoe, one would speculate why handcuffs would be featured on a shoe as a “fashion statement”. Why would you want to be cuffed while so many have been oppressed throughout the US and around the world? It’s not OK to glamorize oppression even if it is for fashion purposes. Because of the backlash Adidas decided to officially pull the sneaker from their upcoming line and came out with a statement saying that the design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer, Jeremy Scott's, outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery (Amarca, 2015).
Just when things couldn’t have gotten worse, in 2013, Scott did another collection with Adidas featuring a series of tracksuits, shoes and dresses with vibrant, cartoon-like depictions of Pacific Northwest Native American totem pole print (See images 3-5). Flaunting around wearing someone else’s heritage is disrespectful. In a way, it feels like he was making a mockery out of their culture and tarnishing its significance and meaning. Jessica Metcalfe, a professor of Native American Fashion, stated that “bizarre,” “garish,” “unpleasant,” and “disgusting” were several terms used to describe these outfits by people in the Native American community. Several individuals called his inspiration unoriginal and argued that his take on the line was ignorant, disrespectful, and badly construed (Amarca, 2015). Most of the time designers can be insensitive when it comes to wanting to be “unique” or “different”. More research could and should be done before producing a collection or product that may be perceived as offensive. Opinions of others are highly important. Cultural diversity is necessary in the workplace in order to prevent instances like this.
On the other hand, after being brought on in 2014, Jeremy Scott brought irreverence and humor back to Moschino. He incorporates a lot of contemporary symbolism and pop culture into his designs that appeals to the younger audience. This is understandable because the current society we live in cannot relate to symbolisms of the past. While trying to keep the outspoken creativity of the brand, he also brought controversy. In the fall of 2014, Scott produced a McDonald’s collection (See image 6). During this time, McDonald’s was in the news due to allegations of promoting obesity and unhealthy foods. Scott used his humor and creativity to compare the effects of “fast fashion” and “fast food”. Unfortunately, some people did not interpret his designs as fun or creative, but salty, for sure. Specifically, McDonald’s workers felt they were being mocked. Mia Brusendorff, a former McDonald's worker, stated that knowing someone would pay $1,000 for clothing inspired by McDonald's workers who earned minimum wage was a mockery (Fleming, 2014). In response, Scott said that McDonald’s was part of our everyday lives…and when he designed, he always pulled from things that were significant to him. In his work, he searches for happiness and tries to convey joy in the clothes (Amarca, 2015). He continues to use symbolism or iconography such as Barbie, street graffiti, dangerous haute couture, Marlboro cigarettes, 2D garments with prints, and more (See image 7). Each one was relating to what was happening in the news at that time.
Moschino’s recent spring 23 collection was inspired by inflation. Because the cost of everything is rising, Scott states that sometimes we feel like we are drowning (Phelps, 2022). So, he incorporates inflatable details such as floaties and rubber duckies as hemlines and heart shaped collars (See image 8).
Despite his actions in the past, I think Scott keeps making heads turn, whether for a good or bad reason. There has not been much talk of him being racist, but just inconsiderate and ignorant. Scott seems to be doing what I feel most do when they want to stand out. In fact, he isn’t the worst. He definitely has a unique way of designing, but in more of a literal way than Franco Moschino. Their creativity scales are on two different levels. Moschino managed to make fun of the fashion industry while also bringing important issues to the forefront. Moschino brought awareness to major issues through unique fashion pieces and ideas. The whole point of the brand in the past was to standout and it continues to do just that today. Yet, designers should be cautious and aware of cultural diversity in fashion and important issues of the time and context. I’ve come to realize that fashion is a nonverbal way of making a statement. We argued this point in our class Fashion: Why is it Meaningful, over and over. We all have different tastes and not every design or collection will appeal to us. Moschino’s most infamous quote states that, “Good taste doesn’t exist. It’s our tastes. We have to be proud of it.” Moschino as a brand is meant for the bold who aren’t afraid to express themselves. Moschino and Scott have both challenged the thoughts of many throughout the years. It’s up to you to say what you do or don’t like.
Amarca, N. (2015, October 2). Jeremy Scott's 5 Most controversial moments. Highsnobiety. https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/jeremy-scott-controversies/
B, R. (2021, September 11). Moschino brand: Moschino Franco, an Italian fashion designer. Life in Italy. https://lifeinitaly.com/moschino-brand/
Chavez, G. (2018, February 28). Franco Moschino, a fashion radical - moschino fashion designer death jeremy scott. L'Officiel USA. https://www.lofficielusa.com/fashion/franco-moschino-fashion-radical-designer-jeremy-scott
Fleming, O. (2014, March 3). Fast food employees accuse Moschino of 'mocking' minimum wage earners. Daily Mail Online.https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2572180/Theres-fashionable-working-McDonalds-Fast-food-employees-accuse-Moschino-mocking-minimum-wage-earners-new-capsule-collection.html
Phelps, N. (2022, September 22). Moschino Spring 2023 ready-to-wear collection. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2023-ready-to-wear/moschino
Who does Fashion Better America or Italy?
November 10, 2022
Women’s fashion differs all over the world, especially when it comes to different regions and cultures. Yet, when thinking about styles in other countries, views are often rather skewed. Italian women’s fashion in Italy, specifically in Cortona, is widely different from American women’s fashion. The expectations of Americans regarding what they believe Italian fashion looks like is different from the reality.
The UGA Cortona Program Fall 2022 fashion students’ expectation was that Italian fashion consists of flowy, light, floral, and bright skirts and dresses. However, it turned out to be not one hundred percent true. After taking a look at a few of the shops in Cortona and taking note of what women are wearing while they walk about, I concluded that reality is a little different. In summer, the expectation appears to be more on par with how Italian women actually dress, yet that is the only season when it is so.
Many shops in Cortona appear to sell bright colors like pinks, purples, blues, and some spring greens. There are also a lot of beige, white, and black clothes on display. However, more people on the streets seem to be wearing shades of black or other neutrals than the colors showcased in the store windows.
Fall storefront merchandising did not change much from summer to fall, the colors went from bright to a bit more toned down. Currently, there are more neutrals, but the silhouettes did not morph drastically. Overall, the stores in Cortona never appear to advertise form fitting items, the fashions are more loose fitting, yet still flattering for the body. Fall clothing has changed the dresses made with light fabrics into wider leg pants and looser coats that can be layered with sweaters. There were more bold color choices and patterns for the summer season, while in the fall, there are more solid neutrals and nature colors paired with pops of bright color here and there, underneath coats and jackets. The fabrics have gone from very light, to heavier knitwear and layering, even while it is still rather hot out. Italians dress for the season not the weather.
The boutiques in Cortona are filled with classier, more elegant styles than the stores in Athens. That is partly due to the differing demographic the two towns serve, yet, Italians tend to dress nicer at all ages than Americans. Female students in high school and college, in America, hit a stage where they begin to pick up tighter, shorter, figure-hugging clothing items, but that does not seem to be the case in Italy. Even younger Italian girls do not seem to do the same, they find a way to accentuate their bodies in a way that leaves more to the imagination. Italians also tend to own fewer clothing items but dress it up and style it more. It is all about “Made in Italy,” and about quality. In contrast, Americans are all about consumption and following every new trend that comes out; they eat up fashion trends like each one will be their last meal.
The practice of the Bella Figura’ plays a huge role in this difference. This is a complex concept that essentially means that Italians are very conscious about making a good and lasting impression. They wear clean, well maintained, and ironed items when they go out. They love neutral colors and minimal accessories because they want to look effortlessly beautiful, not flashy. The clothing is bought specifically for their body shape, the items are more tailored, not baggy, so as to accentuate their shape, without being skintight. Fashion is about quality, not quantity. It is also about the fabrics, according to Margareth’s blog on Italian clothing for the Student Ville Blog. They buy nicer, longer lasting fabrics, a lot of cottons, linens, and wools. They have a separate wardrobe for the home and a public wardrobe, which is why it is common to see them wearing the same outfit twice because they may have only worn it for a few hours the day before. They look after their clothing well and go as far as ironing their sheets, socks, and underwear (Margareth. Student Ville Blog).
Ironing is not something nearly as many Americans do. According to Jura Koncius’ 2019 article in the Seattle Times, “Consumers are taking the chore of ironing and figuring out easier, faster and often cheaper ways to accomplish it.” They will throw items in the dryer with a damp paper towel for 10 minutes or reach for a wrinkle removing spray. Others even resort to dampening the item and using a hair dryer to dry out any creased areas. Koncius also points out in her article that wrinkled items are “in style”, from tablecloths to clothing because the way the light hits the wrinkles is pretty. Iron sales in America are seeing a decline in the 18 to 44 age group. So, this idea in Italy of always looking put together with crisp clothing is in stark contrast to American dress practices.
Boutiques in Athens Georgia tend to carry more provocative and form-fitting or very oversized clothing options, as well as items with rips or holes. It is all about what will accentuate the part of the body they are aiming to show off most. The clothing is a lot more casual as well. While Italians dress well, even when they are just going to the store to grocery shop, Americans tend to wear sweats and t-shirts or athleisure wear. There are a lot of bright colors and loud patterns available as well, even as winter creeps in. It looks like perpetual spring and summer on the social media accounts for boutiques like Pitaya, Cheeky Peach, Heery’s and American Threads. It all appears very flashy and attention seeking.
This difference makes sense partially due to the fact that Athens and Cortona are catering to very different demographics. However, even outside of Athens, stores in Georgia tend to cater more toward younger demographics. There are only a few stores that are meant for women in their early 30’s and older, unless they are higher-end stores that require customers to have a more expendable income. In Cortona, on average, the age of the target female customer tends to be between mid-thirties and early 60’s. Therefore, the clothing here is geared toward a slightly older age group than the one found in Athens.
While it is hard to compare stores in Cortona, Italy with boutiques in Athens, Georgia due to the differing demographics, there are stores that sell similar items in similar price ranges like Camillioni and Heery’s. Camillioni is a women’s clothing store located in Cortona, they are selling greens, beiges, blues, a little yellow and a lot of neutral tones. From looking at their Instagram page the dresses and skirts seem to flow at the bottom, and some are a little more form-fitted at the top, but all are very elegant. The sweaters and tops are advertised as loose- fitting and tucked into pants. If one were to compare it to Heery’s, a women’s clothing store in Athens, the most overlap is perhaps with the dress forms. Their dresses are more flowy toward the bottom, but are on the shorter side.
Heery’s seems to have a lot more color in their merchandise palette. They are both in a similar price range, with dresses, for example, beginning at about $150 to $200 minimum. In Italy this is a more normal price range for stores in smaller towns that are geared toward residents and less toward tourists. However, in Athens this price range is on the higher end for many college students.
Essentially there is a huge difference between the way Americans and Italians dress. Being an American in Italy, it always feels like we are a spectacle because even when we try to blend in a bit, we struggle. The stores are selling a lot of colors here in Cortona and even back home in Athens, so the urge to wear colors is very strong. Yet, when we do, people stare. The women here are more elegant, they appear more refined and it actually makes me want to replicate that. It really is an enviable look. Even the prices here, while higher than what I would normally pay in America for items, seem reasonable and affordable. I might go to Target in Georgia and think $20 for a dress is expensive, yet, here in Cortona, I will see a shirt for $35 and think I am getting a deal. It has a lot to do with how they merchandise and present their clothing. Their windows always look very put together and chic, so when I go to shop, I am expecting to spend more on an item and when I spend less than what I expected it seems like a steal. Italians are all about quality. Therefore, I tend to think that the item must be worth the price because Italians are very elegant and picky about their fabrics. I have learned a lot about quality of course, but I have also learned a lot about how visual merchandising effects consumers when executed properly. Displaying products with the right atmosphere can convince even the most budget-conscious shoppers to spend more than they normally would.
Koncius, J. (2019, May 21). Does anyone really need an iron anymore? . The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.seattletimes.com/explore/shop-northwest/does-anyone-really-need-an-iron-anymore/
M. (2021, February 9). Italian clothing all you need to know. blogstudentsvilleit. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://blog.studentsville.it/top-10-tips/italian-clothing/
Town of cortona zip 52044 (AR) Toscana, Italy. full data and useful ... (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://italia.indettaglio.it/eng/toscana/cortona.html
The Italian Textile Industry: Its Past, Present, and Future
November 09, 2022
Italy has made an indelible mark on the fashion industry. Looking past the abundance of its world-famous designers and flashy runway shows, the true core of the industry is textiles. Italy’s textile industry is known for creativity, innovation in sustainability, and high-quality craftsmanship. Fashion students on the UGA Fall 2022 Study Away Program were able to travel to Prato and visit the Museo del Tessuto to learn more about the history of textiles in Tuscany and Italy at large.
The production of textiles has been around for centuries in Italy. During the Renaissance, Florence emerged as a textile powerhouse and made a name for itself in the global textile trade. The importance of craftsmanship emerged at this time as well. To this day, each city or region in Italy hones its own craft. For example, “Como is known for silk printing, Biella for fine wool textiles, Prato for fashion woolens, Le Marche for its shoe making and Florence for its leather goods” (Wenzel, 2022). The label “Made in Italy '' was born with the growth of trade and the public’s desire for quality Italian products. However, large scale industrialized production emerged only later. It started with the unification of Italy and continued during the interwar period, and beyond.
The true turning point for the Italian textile industry was Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in 1922. Mussolini hoped to unite Italians via a national style and restore it to its former glory. In trying to do so, he invaded Ethiopia, which led to “trade embargoes and sanctions” and entered the country into a period known as “autarky” (Wenzel, 2022). Suddenly, Italy’s previous trade partners or imports were no longer available. Due to the lack of natural resources, the country has struggled to maintain its robust textile production and was forced to innovate by developing nontraditional textiles and new technologies of production.
After World War II and the fall of Mussolini’s regime, Italian fashion was reborn and experienced a major growth period. Italy “took advantage of American financial support” that helped rebuild its textile industry (Belfanti, 2015). Essentially, the United States kickstarted the Italian economy with “a $25 million loan to pay for 150,000 bales of raw American cotton” through the Marshall Aid program (White, 2000 p. 21). This gave the United States access to private exports from Italy and also allowed Italians to industrialize and rejuvenate the country’s economy. The deal was beneficial for both parties.
Following World War II, the textile industry started to flourish. Giovanni Battista Giorgini helped popularize Italian textiles and fashion in America by hosting a fashion show in 1951, which gained “the attention of American buyers and journalists and pushed Italian designers into the spotlight” (Wenzel, 2022). Italian fashion was exactly what the West wanted; thus, exports skyrocketed. Only three years after Giorgini’s fashion show “the total export market of Italian apparel textiles (mainly luxury silks) was worth over $4 million” (White, 2000 p. 24). Obviously, in order to succeed, Italian textile producers needed Italian fashion to also succeed– they were a team now. Soon, the label “Made in Italy” had become the hallmark of quality and style.
The growing desire for Italian-made textiles and clothes leads to issues with supply and demand. Throughout the 1960s, the textile industry faced “rising labour costs, inefficient distribution, obsolete plant, competition from new cheap labour countries in the Far East, and sharp rises in raw material costs” (White, 2000 p. 24). Although they were able to avoid these problems then, the industry is plagued with them today again.
Prato is a city that has made a name for itself within the textile world, especially in Italy. Over the years, it has earned the title of a “model of an industrial district” (Museo del Tessuto, 2022). Like many Italian cities, its history and trade date back centuries. Particularly, one of the oldest factories, the Campolmi Textile Mill, was booming from the Middle Ages till its retirement in 1994 (Museo del Tessuto, 2022). Now it is a museum and learning space for students, researchers, and tourists alike. During the museum visit, UGA students were able to see the evolution of textile machinery and find out about unique sustainability efforts that were launched in Prato. From its early beginnings of rag picking to using unlikely materials, like fruit skins and plastics, to create clothing, Prato has done it all!
Prato was already involved in textile production during Renaissance, but became a famous textile center in the latter half of the nineteenth century when technology was on the rise and the need for production up (Museo del Tessuto, 2022). However, even before that the city was working on innovation by creating new regenerated fabrics from scrap fabrics found in the streets. The process involved breaking down the fibers and reworking them into wool with the use of factory machinery.
What makes this Tuscan town special is its large population of Chinese immigrants who have come to work in the textile industry. However, despite their hard work and dedication the Chinese workers still face prejudice, have to live and work in unsafe conditions, and are poorly paid. Piero Tony, a previous chief prosecutor, said, “there are Italian brands that are above suspicion, major brands that have turned [to the Chinese in Prato] to make for two cents what they sell for two million,” which has only grown in the past decade (Martens 2014). Although Prato is not the only city facing problems like this, Prato throws into question what Italian-made means today. It is a pressing and urgent issue because 2,500 of Prato’s 3,600 textile factories were Chinese-run as of 2014 (Martens, 2014).
One of the growing concerns today is the idea of overconsumption and overproduction. Italy’s large textile production is also affected by the growing fast fashion epidemic. Prato factories alone produce one million garments every day (Fibre2Fashion 2014). However, some seem to be reconciling it with the idea of reworking textiles into more sustainable materials. For example, the Museo del Tessuto showcases clothing and accessories made from unlikely materials such as plastic, regenerated denim, and even pineapple skins to illustrate the future that research in textile science could bring to the fashion industry. However, new technology and new materials still have a long way to go before more and truly sustainable products can become widely available to consumers.
The textile industry’s rich history is what has made Italy into the country it is today. It was the textile industry that had created a solid foundation for its booming fashion industry. At the same time, how can problems with its workforce, sustainability, and authenticity be maintained? Will Italy take the necessary steps to fix the issues before it gets too late? These questions still await an answer.
About. Museo del Tessuto. (2022, October 11). Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://www.museodeltessuto.it/en/about/
Belfanti, C. M. (2014). Renaissance and ‘made in italy’: Marketing italian fashion through history (1949–1952). Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 20(1), 53–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/1354571x.2014.973154
Italian textile industry issues and prospects. Fibre2Fashion. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/7320/current-issues-and-future-prospects-of-italian-textile
Martens, C. (2014, September 19). Made in Italy: The Prato Challenge. WWD. Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://wwd.com/business-news/government-trade/made-in-italy-the-prato-challenge-7924049/
Wenzel, K. (2022, April 21). The past, present and future of the 'made in Italy' label. a magazine. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://theamag.com/7141/culture/the-past-present-and-future-of-the-made-in-italy-label/
White, N. (2000). Reconstructing italian fashion: America and the development of the Italian Fashion Industry. Berg.
Ferragamo, Femininity, and Freedom
November 08, 2022
Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman, and the legacy of Salvatore Ferragamo is no exception. A story of a man who turned his life from rags to riches, the Ferragamo brand revolutionized footwear and helped solidify Italy as a premiere fashion destination. However, the story of Wanda Ferragamo is lesser known, though just as significant to the brand. Her leadership and bravery in redefining the role of women in Italian society not only restructured the Italian economy but led to the continued success of the Ferragamo name. The exhibition Women in Balance at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, in Florence, commemorates Wanda’s success in expanding, nurturing, and reviving the Ferragamo brand. Displayed in the historical Palazzo Spini Feroni, which once housed the first Ferragamo store, Women in Balance utilizes Wanda Ferragamo as a symbol of resistance and female empowerment as it leads viewers through several rooms, each depicting a different segment of women’s lives in Italy during the fifties throughout the seventies.
A powerhouse and the perfect icon to lead the female liberation movement in Italy, Wanda bravely took over the Ferragamo company after Salvatore’s death in 1960. Although facing much criticism from a patriarchal Italian society, she steamed forward to transform Ferragamo from a company into a fashion house. As Salvatore’s right-hand, Wanda had become an expert in fashion retailing and business management. Nobody was as prepared as she was to handle the family business and expand it into new product divisions, eventually transforming production and communication within the brand. Her natural genius led her to analyze the demographic of her target market, recognize and evaluate the local competition, and study the product offering. She also arranged training for sales associates and worked on merchandise displays to optimize sales (Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, 2022). Starting with the release of “Gilio” in 1961, the first fragrance by Ferragamo, followed by subsequent releases of handbags, new shoe designs, and fragrances, the company began to steadily grow. In 1961, following in the footsteps of her mother, Giovanna Ferragamo presented her first ready-to-wear line, garnering further attention to the Ferragamo name. Giovanna, pregnant with her first child at the time, was under major scrutiny; stakes were high to prove to a male-dominated workforce that women could balance their home life and work. Doubt and discreditation was a familiar theme for the women of the Ferragamo family, and one they constantly proved wrong. Throughout the following decades, Wanda continued to champion Italian fashion. The 1980s turned Ferragamo into a household name. As international sales skyrocketed, Ferragamo established itself in the US and Asian markets. He opened a Ferragamo store in Hong Kong, which was followed by many other stores in subsequent locations. The family company with its made-in-Italy credentials has become a well-established brand with managers recruited from outside the Ferragamo family lineage.
The climb to victory was not an easy one for Wanda Ferragamo. Addressed throughout Women in Balance, most women during the fifties and sixties in the Italian society were locked behind the doors of quiet residential homes, running the household, and caring for the children. During the Agricultural Revolution women “represented the essence of life, and only later, with the structuring of society into roles, were they assigned a lower social and economic rank to men, up to positioning them almost exclusively within the home” (Dettori, Floris, 2022, p.5). The major influence of religion in Italian city-states throughout the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, such as the Byzantine Empire in the north and heavy Catholicism in the South further reinforced the belief that women should be kept subordinate to men. The perpetual image of the innocent and devoted Virgin Mary flashed across every fresco, façade, and public square the Italian people encountered. Education for women was limited, and those who allowed them to be admitted focused their missions on the “moral education of the girls rather than their intellectual construction” (Salomoni, 2019, p.8). In such institutions the aim was to shape them to become good Christian wives, regardless of the fact if they chose that life or not. The belief in the patriarchal Italian culture that women were meant to be pure, quiet, and devoted to their families had been entrenched deeply in familial structures over the centuries.
As modernity and the twentieth century approached, women slowly began to take charge of their lives and rebel against this confining social order. The brutal reality of World War I swung women onto the streets of Italy, clearing roads, running food and water to troops, caring for the injured, and taking over the jobs of their husbands who had left to fight. Though still, women’s rights were not only passively ignored, but outwardly spoken against. During the fascist years that led up to the sixties, Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party, put women’s role at the center of party politics, though “women’s right to work, which on a theoretical level was to be at the core of women’s emancipation, was never truly supported” (Shievenin, 2012, p. 9). False advocacy for the liberation of women was common. However, the fight continued throughout the sixties and seventies and women eventually gained their rights and freedoms. The revolutionary years between the fifties and sixties became known as the “economic miracle”, as a growing number of women rebelled against the societal chains imposed upon them by working outside the home, dating, and leading independent lives. Their rebellions significantly boosted the Italian economy, emphasizing the value of women in the workplace as equal figures in society.
The UGA Cortona fashion students visited the exhibition Women in Balance at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, which seamlessly took them back into a time of quaint living for women, depicting the backdrop upon which Wanda Ferragamo found herself navigating female leadership. Immediately after walking down the steps, a massive wall filled with Ferragamo’s most popular shoes towers before an audience. The collection includes his patented steel shank design which he created after learning it supported the arch of a human foot more suitably (Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, 2022). Inside a small square room there is a giant screen on the wall, running a documentary on polling women on their thoughts on topics like sex, divorce, work, family, and female independence. There seems to be a general consensus, that women believed they were capable of balancing work and motherhood, or if they preferred, they could choose to make their career their focus. In the documentary, when asked about divorce, a confident woman, while surrounded by a crowd of men bravely states, “I think [divorce is the right thing to do], because being tied to a man forever is annoying.” Another room, filled with vintage kettles, cookers, microwaves, toasters, and a fridge bursting with frozen food, represents a time of innovation. Technology revolutionized the amount of time women devoted to being in the kitchen; gone were the days of slaving over the stove when microwaves and cookers did it all in under half an hour. Antique washing machines, vacuums, steamers, and dryers stand in another corner. These advancements further persuaded women to diversify their hobbies and/or dedicate time to work. Further down the hall, a dark room runs classic Italian movies, like “The Sign of Venus”, where the protagonist is a headstrong, independent female, desperate for freedom. Culminating in the ninth room, which houses a small collection of Ferragamo’s most iconic clothing items, the Women in Balance exhibition not only pays homage to Wanda Ferragamo, but to all the women who paved the way for today’s generation to enjoy the liberty of independent life.
The liberation of women was a revolutionary and triumphal time, though, to this day, women still face multiple gender issues, like unjust wage gaps, sexual and domestic violence, unequal access to education, and restrictive healthcare. Clearly, the fight for women is not over, but at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, the progress is being celebrated and recognized through the life of feminist Wanda Ferragamo. Women in Balance revels in the triumphs of Wanda’s vision, execution, and perseverance for the Ferragamo brand. Contextualizing Wanda’s role through the implementation of documentaries, pop culture references, film, historical garments, and other artifacts, the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo crowns Wanda as a champion of the brand, just as much as Salvatore. An inspiration for women everywhere, and an unforgettable piece of history, Wanda Ferragamo reigns supreme in the fashion industry
Dettori, A. and Floris, M. (2022), "Women's roles in family businesses: some empirical evidence from Italy", Journal of Family Business Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1108/JFBM-04-2022-0053
Ferragamo, G. (2022). Salvatore Ferragamo Museum: Salvatore Ferragamo's Life & Creations. Salvatore Ferragamo Museum | Salvatore Ferragamo's Life & Creations. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.ferragamo.com/museo/en
Salomoni, D. (2019). Women, Religion, and Education in Early Modern Italy. Some Case Studies (16th-18th c.). Studi Sulla Formazione, 22(2), 439. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.13128/ssf-10816
Schievenin, P. (2012). Italian communism and the “woman question” in post-war Italy: from memory to history. Twentieth Century Communism, 4, 189. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://eds.s.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=18&sid=780dcd02-938f-4078-8b19-805a3cfc1138%40redis
Why don’t Italians frequent second-hand clothing stores like Americans?
November 08, 2022
Western societies have an extensive, documented history regarding the business of second-hand clothing. Within the last decade, stigmas regarding pre-owned clothing have severely diminished as the popularization of “thrifting,” or shopping at thrift-stores, has become a mainstream phenomenon. However, there is a clear distinction between Western attitudes of second-hand clothing and the ideals of Italian lifestyle. The mostly positive sentiments surrounding used clothes have not resonated in Italian culture as they have in America. In fact, there are significantly fewer second-hand stores throughout Italy than in the US. Ideas on over-consumption and fast fashion are also different in the consumerist cultures of the United States and Italy. Italians do not follow similar trend cycles, in fact, are not as trend conscious and do not treat clothing as disposable as Americans. My discussion of second-hand clothing relates to the phenomenon as a newer consumption practice more so than an economic necessity, though it is critical to make note of gentrification of the second-hand clothing market in both locations.
Americans consume clothing at a much higher rate than do nearly all other countries. In fact, the countries that account for the “…majority of apparel demand are the United States and China, both generating substantially higher revenues that any other country” (Smith, 2022a). To summarize typical American consumption habits, the average American “…throws away about 81 pounds of clothes per year”, a direct result of America’s marketplace dominated by fast fashion and its push for perpetually changing fashion trends (Rauturier, 2022). To compare that with Italy, which is ranked as the leading textile polluter of the European Union, the average textile waste per person is about 17 pounds per year (i.e., still significantly less than in the U.S.) (Smith, 2022b). To explain this considerable difference, one must understand the viewpoint Italians have on second-hand clothing, as well as their participation in sustainable habits as they relate to the Italian culture and lifestyle, in general. With regard to sustainability in the fashion industry, Italian consumer attitudes towards green behaviors are becoming increasingly positive as shown in a survey conducted by Ipsos; more consumers are purchasing second-hand apparel, shoes, and accessories. However, 26% of respondents declared that they would never purchase second-hand fashion items (Statista, 2022). One explanation for this could stem from a culture that puts emphasis on family-based businesses and artisanal craft.
We have interacted with several craftsmen or family businesses as part of our Italian Fashion class during the 2022 Cortona Study Away Program. These included DelBrenna Jewelry in Cortona, Paolo Scafora’s custom made shoe business, hailing from Naples, but doing business in Cortona, or Alessandro Fratini, who works as a hair stylist for the Milan and other global fashion weeks and owns Italy’s oldest hair salon, which has been in existence for 122 years in Cortona. These guest speakers all emphasized that Italian people take pride in their long-lasting family businesses. In fact, Italian family businesses are a key component of the Italian economy. According to AIDAF, “…more than 85% of the total number of businesses…” are family owned in Italy, which constitutes “…around 70% of employment” (AIDAF, n.d.). The attention to detail, quality, and service outweighs the overbearing capitalistic values that weigh on most American businesses. In return, the high caliber goods and services produced will last longer, derailing the need for continuous consumption. This illuminates why Italians’ textile disposal is significantly less than that of the United States. Ultimately, it is evident that not all Italian family businesses and artisanal practices are small-scale as experienced in the quaint Tuscan town of Cortona, but the majority appears to be environmentally-responsible compared to the polluting habits of fast fashion companies that are popular in the United States. The Italian heritage that seeks to continue with the “fine Italian hand” and values of authenticity, craftsmanship, and respect for the environment might explain this.
Western economies continue to encourage the increase of second-hand consumption, challenging a culture that is still predominately reluctant to buy used goods. Popular brands such as Ikea, Elena Miro, and Intimissimi have begun promoting the acceptance of second-hand goods. Online websites featuring second-hand products are seeing an increase in activity; together the second-hand sector has grown by 33% (Dress Ecode, 2021). Yet, the consumption of second-hand items is not entirely new to Italy. Whereas ‘garage sales’ in the United States are common, this social phenomenon and type of selling of second-hand items is performed differently in Italy. In fact, it is not a coincidence that Italian cities are the host to monthly, if not weekly, antique markets. The re-entry of objects in the antique markets – and “re-valuing” of goods as vintage- can be viewed as a “symbolic ritual of cleansing” of an object so that it becomes one of “good taste”. Thus, despite the perceptions that were still palpable a few years ago, Italy is starting to get on board with the global trend of preference for second-hand fashion items.
While Italians do not have many clothes, they make use of what they have superbly, which coincides with the mantra of la Bella Figura they hold in such high esteem. Italians place a high value on their outward appearance, for they want “to make a good figure” as the definition implies. Eugenia Paulicelli an expert on Italian culture and fashion, explains that the Italians understand that dress is a language, a form of social institution, and a reflection of taste, desire, and consumption choices intertwined with the idea of nation and identity (Paulicelli, 2014). Thus, this philosophy inherently conflicts with the perception of used clothing. Starting as early as the 18th century second-hand clothing was not only associated with poverty, but perceived as dirty –because of the lingering traces of an unknown body in the clothing items (The Then and Now, 2020). Even in America this sentiment is difficult to overcome. Thus, a country such as Italy that embodies beauty in every aspect--–art, architecture, and people ---–will, understandably, resist the trend towards buying second-hand products. Great pride is taken in Italian fashion, because it represents freedom from Parisian fashion--- Italy’s main rival on the global fashion scene. Consequently, Italian fashion strives to come across as independent and self-determining. It also tends to pay homage to the Renaissance, its most important cultural heritage. The references to Renaissance are emphasized because they establish continuity between the craftsmanship of the Renaissance and that of today’s fashion (Belfanti, 2015).
I was initially confused as to why Italy is not crawling with thrift stores as the United States. The attraction to second-hand clothing came naturally to me, because I understood its value in terms of sustainability and as a form of inexpensive clothing supply. However, upon my arrival in Italy, I immediately noticed the lack of thrift stores that I had become accustomed to seeing in America. After further research, I was able to conclude that the continuous production, consumption, and throwing away of clothing that is so normalized in American culture has resulted in the emergence and need for a multitude of donation centers and thrift stores. In contrast, the manner in which Italy so confidently and stridently is portrayed as a signifier of the chic and stylish comes from a long history that ultimately rejects the excessive and imprudent consumption habits, we are accustomed to in the United States (Paulicelli, 2014). To witness first-hand a lifestyle in Cortona that celebrates slow-fashion, family businesses, and artisanal craft has been an unparalleled experience, I will always be grateful for.
Merredith Wynne Bruening
AIDAF. (n.d.) AIDAF Italian Family Business. Retrieved from https://www.aidaf.it/en/aidaf-
Belfanti, C. M. (2015). Renaissance and ‘Made in Italy’: Marketing Italian fashion through
history (1949-1952). Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1354571X.2014.973154
Marzella, F. (n.d.) Second-hand goods use in the Italian post-industrial society. A first
theoretical view. Academia.edu. Retreived from https://www.academia.edu/1947650/Second_hand_goods_use_in_the_Italian_post_industrial_society_A_first_theoretical_view
Paulicelli, E. a. (2014) Fashion: The cultural economy of made in Italy. Bloomsbury Publishing
PLC. Retrieved from University of Georgia.
Paulicelli, E. b. (2014, December 13). Italian fashion: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1354571X.2014.973150
Rauturier, S. (2022, February 21). Everything You Need to Know About Waste in the
Fashion Industry. good on you. Retrieved from https://goodonyou.eco/waste-luxury-fashion/
Smith, P. a. (2022, August 17). Global apparel market – statistics and facts. Statista. Retrieved
Smith, P. b. (2022, January 13). Total textile waste in the European Union (EU) 2016, by
country. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1090540/textile-waste-generated-in-the-european-union/
Dress Ecode. (2021, January 29). Second-hand fashion: Its boom time the world the trend is
increasing. Days numbered for fast fashion? Retrieved from https://dress-ecode.com/en/2021/01/29/second-hand-fashion-its-boom-time-the-world-and-the-trend-is-increasing-days-numbered-for-fast-fashion/
Statista Research Department. (2022, September 28). Attitudes towards second-hand fashion in
Italy. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1120692/attitude-towards-second-hand-fashion-in-italy/
The Then and Now of Second-Hand Shopping. (2020, November 20). The Courtauld –
Documenting Fashion. Retrieved from https://sites.courtauld.ac.uk/documentingfashion/2020/11/20/the-then-and-now-of-second-hand-shopping/
The Dover Street Market in London
November 04, 2022
What is the Dover Street Market?
As part of the UGA Cortona Study Away Program, two months ago, our fashion merchandising class went to London for a day to visit its historically rich fashion scene. On this excursion, we had the chance to visit the famous Dover Street Market (DSM) and explore the diverse set of lines and brands displayed at the store. we had never been to the DSM before and, therefore, were quite shocked when we first walked around it, because we thought it would be set up like every other famous department store or high fashion shop: look but do not touch. However, we were pleasantly surprised. DSM immerses the visitor in the clothes and displays and creates an experience where you become a part of the store. We first noticed the artwork and sculptures showcasing the clothes and accessories, forcing us to walk inside and around the different structures. Since we are both interested in fashion, we already had a solid background knowledge of brands and fashion creatives, but we caught ourselves wanting to pull out our phones to look up designers and brands and research them more in depth. We felt we finally understood what each brand was about and wanted to know not only who the creative director was but find out details about their life story and history with the brand and fashion with a capital F as well. Our class here in Cortona is about why fashion is meaningful, and DSM showcases that perfectly as it shows that fashion is more than a $4000 jacket sitting on a hanger. Fashion is art. DSM merges fashion with art, which we feel our generation sometimes forgets.
DSM first opened on September 10, 2004, on 17-18 Dover Street, in Mayfair, London. It is a unique retailer that sells high fashion products but also features streetwear, urban, skater, together with smaller clothing, accessories, and perfume brands. Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garcons (CDG) and her husband, Adrian Joffre, started the multi-level retail space and concept. The latter is currently the president of CDG.
Before we jump into DSM, we have to dive into the history of Rei Kawakubo because she is the heart and glue of DSM. Rei Kawakubo was born on October 11, 1942, in Tokyo, Japan. She grew up without her father after he refused to let her mother work outside the house. Because of this, Kawakubo’s mother moved out with Rei and the two started their own life. It is clear Rei got her strong independent personality from her mother. Similar to her, Rei would never take the back seat or a secondary role. When it was time to go to school, Rei Kawakubo went to Krio University in Tokyo to study fine arts and aesthetics and graduated in 1964. Shortly after college, she moved out and got a position working in an advertising department as an acrylic-fiber textile manufacturer. She blossomed at her job and soon got a name for herself in the fashion scene. She attributes this to the fact that she was given creative freedom by her superiors and tasked with designing fashion for the company’s the fashion shoots when she could not find anything she liked. In 1967, she became a freelance stylist, and by 1969, Kawakubo was selling her designs under the label CDG to multiple stores across Tokyo.
Design Without Men
In the 1970's Kawakubo met Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto. The two were a perfect match as both designed clothes that went against the standard conceptions of feminine beauty. They ended up in a romantic relationship, which makes sense considering their views on life and society. Although their relationship did not last, they stayed friends. In 1981, in Paris, both released fashion collections that shocked the conservative Paris fashion scene. Their clothes were primarily black, asymmetrical, oversized, and did not accentuate the lines of the human body. Despite some criticism, they soon became celebrated across the globe because of their ability to create something completely new and different.
"A short-lived, explorative journey into the sixth sense”
In 1988, Kawakubo started a fashion magazine named SIX to create publicity for her seasonal collections. The magazine closely matched her sartorial Kawakubo’s style and was in sync with her perspective on life. The magazine was meant to appeal to people's sixth sense and contained a plethora of images, art, photography, and, of course, brief explanatory texts or commentary as well.
The magazine was a biannual publication and featured oversized, unstapled pages, which meant to call attention to the artwork. Contributors to the magazine included fashion stars Bruce Weber and Kishin Shinoyama, among others. Today the magazine’s past issues are collector's items and are considered genuine fashion treasures.
Bruce Weber: American photographer and filmmaker is best known for his Calvin Klein and Abercrombie and Fitch campaigns. Since the film: White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, Bruce has been accused of committing multiple accounts of sexual misconduct against young men.
Kishin Shinoyama: A Japanese photographer best known for photographing the covers for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's albums. His work explores the intimacy of the human body and documents his hometown, Tokyo.
Design with Your Thoughts and Taste
"I make clothes for a woman who is not swayed by what her husband thinks.” - Rei Kawakubo.
Kawakubo’s styles gained traction quickly, and, within ten years, she had 150 shops across Japan and earned around 30 million dollars a year. We already mentioned above that Kawakubo did not subject herself to "cultural norms" or conform to society's ideas about women, which she took with her into the fashion scene. Comme des Garcons, which means "like the boys," was a brand designed for women's comfort and lifestyle. She is known for never designing stilettos or making her models wear them on the runways. Furthermore, she has stated that her brand was for the working, independent woman who did not dress to gain a man's approval or attention. At the time, it was rare to find a woman designer who could achieve such momentum in the fashion world and was doing something so clearly against the grain.
Following her last publication of Six, she got married in 1992 to Adrian Joffe, who is now the current CEO of CDG. In the years after getting married, they wanted to create a space that she terms "beautiful chaos." They wanted a retail store where CDG friends and family could come together and experiment with space, advertisement and an art. So CDG was not a clothing store. The retail space was designed around change and the Japanese term tachiagari, which translates to beginning. Bi-annually changing visual interiors, merchandise, and aesthetic modifications keep the place always new and fresh, showcasing striking creations and launching new things every season. There are no boundaries at DSM, for they showcase fresh, off-the-runway designs next to multi-sensory art installations that capture every sense of the mind and body.
After 12 years at 17-18 Dover Street, Rei Kawakubo moved her store to a five-story historic building previously used by Burberry. The new space was 33,000 sq ft and allowed for more creativity in merchandising, display, and design as the previous store was only 13,000 sq ft. The store has crude, bare concrete floors, portable toilets as dressing rooms, sculptures, and cash desks hidden in old wooden sheds. It encompasses a grand spiral staircase that goes through all five levels together with skylights, for she usually designs with false ceilings and downlights. As she has stated, she does not like the outside interfering with the inside of the store. However, due to the history of the building, they were going to keep the historical beauty of the establishment.
DSM's design space combines high-end fashion with conflicting designs. It unites old and rundown with contemporary and extravagant ambiances; something you will very rarely see in the fashion scene. The CDG brand and image amalgamates the store, they aim to break conventional perceptions. While a local architect was employed for the architectural changes in the building, the design space is overseen solely by Kawakubo. Each of the 60 brands showcased in the space is given complete creative control of the designs and installations, apart from the lighting.
Building an Empire
DSM has stores in London, Tokyo (Ginza), New York, Singapore, Beijing, and Los Angeles, and two small concept stores in Paris.
Junya Watanabe was born in Fukushima, Japan, in 1961. He graduated from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in 1984, and began an apprenticeship at CDG as a pattern maker. Junya then moved to design for the CDG’s tricot knit line until 1992. One year later, he presented his first collection in Paris, adding a menswear line under the CDG umbrella for the Spring/Summer 2002 season. Watanabe’s label created quite a buzz within the fashion scene. It had similar silhouettes and color schemes as CDG, which is fitting since he learned from Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto.
Walking into DSM, you are hit by a wave of creativity. It is a breath of fresh air from the usual, stuffy, static luxury stores. The interactive retail experience creates a desire for immersing you even more as you travel throughout the store. Each floor showcases a specific theme, making you feel like you have entered a new storefront on each level. Being able to see pieces you have seen on the runway, up close and personal, is an experience like none other. Reaching out and feeling the textiles creates feelings of inclusivity.
DSM is not only for everyone to enjoy and be inspired by, but it also emphasizes that these garments are made for everyone. Dover Street makes you feel like they want you to try on the bags, the shoes, and the clothes and make them your own, regardless whether you buy them or not. The whimsical nature of the space creates excitement and an upbeat energy. Shopping alongside Ariana Grande (she was in the store during our visit) and other high-end customers makes you feel as fashion-forward and "cool" as them. Being able to say you know what DSM is and that you have been there, places you into a unique, artistic, and exciting group of individuals any fashion lover is dying to be a part of. The color and three-dimensionality of each nook and cranny create feelings of happiness, inspiration, and love. From a mural of stuffed animals to bright neon lights placed from the floor to ceiling together with chair sculptures formed in a way to be mannequins for hats, leaves you with feelings of admiration. We felt our heads needed to be on a swivel to soak in every piece of art that is DSM.
The seven floors of meticulously curated, avant-garde fashion are something you would only see in a fashion dream. All your favorite designers you stalk on Vogue, Pinterest, or Instagram are suddenly in front of you. The skirt you have seen on Hailey Bieber walking around New York or the hoodie you saw on Lil Uzi Vert are suddenly within arm’s reach. The brand names you would be drooling over seem accessible, yet you feel the exclusivity of all the famous labels. The fascinating fashions displayed in a space for the whole world to see and experience makes DSM monumental.
Each designer or small group of designers has its own space within the market. The slight division of these brands creates an interesting and unique shopping experience. How each designer's collection is displayed often highlights the brand's overall aesthetic. For example, the Balenciaga exhibit is a dark gray, sleek setup, outfitted with silver details. This color combination and futuristic look matches perfectly the brand's overall vibe.
Noir Kei Ninomiya has her black and fluorescent yellow pieces enclosed in an all-black space. This setup reflects the brand's play with color but also shows loyalty to the color black within their collections. Merchandising these pieces in a way that fits the brand's aesthetic makes the pieces on display even more desirable. It is as if the designer laid out their inspiration for the collection and then hung up the garments around it. This merchandising style allows customers to understand the brand’s philosophy and the specific goals for the collection much easier. Overall, DSM’s merchandising technique is something to be noted for fashion students going into the fashion industry.
DSM offers various brands, from up-and-coming designers to internationally-known designer labels. The vast selection of labels allows almost any viewer to learn new things: meet for the first time a new upcoming designer or get first-hand information about the latest direction of the global fashion scene.
There are so many brands out there that it is hard to know about them all, no matter how invested you are in fashion and how much you know about the global fashion industry. Because Dover Street is curated, the brands you may not be familiar with will be cohesive with the ones you already know and love. This merchandising technique can often propel smaller brands to the top as well.
Dover Street features Supreme, one of the most exclusive brands in the Hypebeast world. Everyone waits online at 11 a.m. every Thursday to cop a tee or hoodie that will never drop again. Additionally, Supreme underproduces demand in order to create exclusivity. This business technique has proved so successful that several other labels began to utilize the same strategy.
Palace Skateboards is a standout brand within Dover Street. It is a brand for skateboarders, yet it is associated with the Hypebeast street style world because of its similarities to Supreme. Dover Street features several other exclusive labels, which is why the visitors experience a genuine shock when they finally get their hands on these exclusive, limited edition pieces. They also partner with these brands to create pieces of exclusivity for their brand. Stussy is one of the brands they collaborated with on a souvenir-like collection of hoodies and t-shirts with prints of Stussy and Dover Street's logos.
When leaving DSM, we felt we gained a brand-new perspective of fashion. The displays and merchandising techniques made the brands we saw feel like much more than mere clothes on a hanger. The combination of art and fashion created true meaning for customers. Fashion is more than just logos or brand names. Fashion conveys the zeitgeist of both the present and the past. Rei Kawakubo’s ability to convey the artists’ visions while simultaneously creating a welcoming and immersive storefront for their labels is something we have never seen before. The way in which DSM depicts the creative’s visions for these collections is something we can all learn from and utilize going forward.
Jayden Worswick and Emmy Fleshood
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Why do the Italians Love Fast Fashion Retailer—Zara?
November 01, 2022
From London to Arezzo, there are Zara bags on the arm of every stylish man or woman on the streets of Europe. If there is a Zara within a 2-mile radius, I would see a hand full of their followers floating around carrying their logo bags. So, what is the obsession with Zara? How did the titan of fast fashion gain a tight grip on Italy that prides itself on their quality and craftsmanship?
This topic interests me as I recently discovered the Zara store at the Perimeter mall in Atlanta. If you have been to this store, you would know how crazy busy it is. The check-out line is always almost out the door. Still, people will wait 30 minutes just for the clothes. Despite this, when I talk to people from the southeast United States, they have never heard of Zara. A Spanish company, Zara is the 8th largest clothing company in the world, but the state of Georgia only has two store locations. In Italy, Milan alone has eight.
Zara presents itself as a brand for “trendy apparel and accessories.” After visiting the Zara stores in Atlanta, Oxford, London, Rome, Arezzo, and Venice, I can confirm that they sell the exact same clothing world-wide. They have a large selection of crop tops, sweaters, blazers, coats, tailored pants, shoes, and jewelry. I should also note that Zara’s merchandising is impeccable. Every Zara store I have visited is glowing bright white from the ceiling to floor. Their clothing racks and tables are solid black, which contrasts nicely with their colorful array of clothing. However, despite how much consumers love Zara, it does have a dark side. Zara is known as being a leading force in promoting fast fashion. We have all heard the stories of how poorly companies like Zara and Shein treat their factory employees. Their stores are stocked with new merchandise every 2 weeks, but much of these clothes end up in landfills. Even so, its difficult to bypass their inexpensive, stylish clothing. I personally have turned a blind eye to the speculation surrounding Zara and own several of their garments.
One of their key marketing strategies is to produce limited quantities of every style to make their customers think they need to buy that item because it will be sold out soon. No wonder we have all fallen victim to thinking “I have to buy this now, or I will never see it again.” This urge leads to overconsumption and unsustainable practices. It is ironic how sustainable and environmentally friendly Italy is, but they are still not immune to the lure of fast fashion.
My theory to explain Italians’ love for Zara is the emerging idea of the capsule wardrobe. The concept behind a capsule wardrobe is that one stops buying trendy clothing that will go out of style the next season and instead sticks to neutral colored clothing and basic shapes that can be paired in several different ways. The average capsule wardrobe consists of tailored pants, tank tops, t-shirts, sweaters, and a blazer or two, all in various shades of black, white, navy, and beige. Accessories are also modest, gold hoops, white sneakers, and black boots.
If this sounds like the selection at Zara, that is because Zara knows its target market. They copy classic runway styles and make them affordable for the average citizen. We are tricked into thinking that we will wear something we buy for the next ten years, until two weeks later when Zara has the next big classic, trendy design. They make their website difficult to use while also showing off styles in stores to encourage foot traffic. Somehow Zara has been able to combine the idea of classic styles with trendy clothing that Italians crave. Even in Cortona, where we are doing our Study Away, I see Zara jeans and styles on the streets. In the bigger cities, it is easy to see how influential Zara is on the middle to lower class street style. Even though Italians are trying to improve their sustainability efforts, Zara and other fast fashion brands make it hard to resist their clothing.
Milan Fashion, Fall 2022
November 01, 2022
As some of you might know, the Milan fashion week was held September 22- 26. All the new fall trends were either featured on the runway or displayed by celebrities who were in attendance. A group of friends and I took a two-day trip to Milan, right after fashion week, to get a sense of what was shown on the runways without actually being at the shows. Throughout this post, I will be discussing the different styles among teens, women, and men walking around the busy streets of Milan.
Seeing the train fashion on the way to Milan was an interesting start to our discovery process. Because we knew that Milan is a lengthy train ride away from Cortona, our group of friends dressed comfortably. We are fashion students, so, naturally, we wanted to be our most stylish. Our outfits consisted of leather jackets, stylish sneakers, and denim bottoms. As I was observing the crowd around our post-fashion week crew, I noticed a few teens, presumably on their way to school. The teens all had their own fashion sense. The rebellious ones tended to have dark colored clothes on. Boys were wearing white button-down collared shirts (unbuttoned below their chests), skinny jeans, and sported a greasy or messy looking hairdo. The rebels had on significantly more jewelry than the others; they had hoops in their ears and chunky chains showing between their unbuttoned shirts. The females in this group had a similar style, but the boys were looking more formal.
I next observed a group of girls. These girls looked like a bestie gang. They had similar styles to one another. First, I was surprised by how similar they looked, but, then, I quickly remembered what it was like in early high school and recalled that such copy-cat fashion is expected within a group of besties since they look up to one another. These women had casual jeans and Vans, with striped shirts on. If their shirt wasn't striped, it was coming across as a soft looking material with some sort of graphic embellishment across the front. Throughout the observations of school kids hopping on and off the train, it was fascinating to see their various ways of trying to express their identity.
Arriving in Milan, I was on the lookout for fashionable people. My favorite part about being in any city is catching a glimpse of the coolest looking people and gaining inspiration from their outfit of the day. A common theme in most of the styles I saw was the obvious display of name brands paired with fancy sneakers. As people are walking quite a lot in the city, they do not want their feet to hurt. Therefore, sneakers have become staple pieces of an outfit, especially the ones that are trending on social media platforms. A majority of the sneakers were Nike, Adidas, or Converse in their most popular styles right now. The styles consisted of Nike Air Jordans, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and Adidas Forum low sneakers. Seeing this on the streets of Milan was mind-opening because it clearly demonstrated how many people follow the trends today and how important fashion is in people’s lives. Yet, the only people wearing the above types of sneakers were the under twenty-year-old. Nobody outside of their twenties wore sneakers such as these. The rest of the people had upgraded to more mature and professional looks. The over twenty age group also wore more neutral tones and clean-cut lines. Their outfits represented today’s fashion, but they conformed less to the latest trends and their outfits appeared to be more independently thought through. In sum, I could see more character in this group of people’s fashion sense. They also appeared to try less hard to stand out. This age cohort wore different types of shoes as well, such as loafers or boots of some sorts.
From a sartorial perspective, nightlife fashion was the best part of our weekend. Entering the club scene, I noticed that people did not wore anything crazy, still, everybody looked cool. Most people wore long leather jackets, but none of the people had their arms through the arm holes. This observation made me wondering: Why do people look so cool when their arms aren't in their jackets? I guess, it makes them look too important to use a jacket properly, but fashionable enough to leave it on. Another commonality in the nightlife crowds were tall boots, mostly black ones. The majority of those were heeled and pointed. Boots were seen on everybody and everywhere. Granted, we are moving into the colder seasons, but wearing boots was not dictated by the weather. Nevertheless, those boots looked so good with everyone's outfit. Night-life fashion was also flashier than day-time fashion. People made more effort and were showing more of their inner selves through their clothed bodies.
The most interesting looking and most high fashion person I saw was a man, maybe in his mid-twenties. He had an all-black outfit on that consisted of black, skinny ripped jeans with painted designs all over them, paired with large chunky boots, and a ginormous puffer jacket. When I looked at his face, I could see tattoos coming out of his neckline, onto his face, and all over his chin. The tattoos suggested a rebellious, dark, and mysterious persona. The best part, in my opinion, was that he had colored contacts on, which made his eyes appear to be all white. This guy’s fashion sense was the epitome of self-expression! Overall, night-life fashion was very streetwear and dramatic.
A key takeaway from my fashion observation exercise was how interesting it is to watch people’s attempts to stand out, when it is obvious that they generally got their ideas from popular fashion trends, which, actually makes them fit in more. As another fashion week passes, more trends come in. I felt that this year's trends displayed by people walking the streets of Milan allowed me to see the show without having to be a guest at the event.
What it Means to Dress Like a Man
November 01, 2022
Menswear hasn’t always been the talk of the town. It is usually womenswear or, of late, androgynous fashion that tend to take the limelight. However, Gucci has decided to sponsor an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum that focuses exclusively on men’s fashion throughout time. Now, this isn’t a run of the mill exhibition on men’s fashion! It delves into how masculine gender identity is shaped by dangerous stereotypes in our society and how we all must begin to battle and break these in order to reclaim what masculinity truly is and can be.
European fashion has been at the center of men’s fashion for centuries. From the gladiators to the flamboyant 19th and early 20th centuries, to the street style of today, European fashion has a taste of it all— but not without the cultural influences of the rest of the global community.
Spanning back to Ancient Greece and Rome, the Borghese Gladiator– a life-size sculpture portraying a swordsman– is a prime example of how masculinity and athleticism have been seen as synonymous. Athletics was seen to help prime, shape, and sculpt the body. Today, athletes are able to relate to these symbols through not only their bodies, but in the way they dress and fashion themselves. Greek and Roman statues have also been seen to represent unrealistic beauty standards that are idolized and idealized, which not only contribute to harmful expectations, but in some cases become part of what the label “toxic masculinity” covers.
Frivolous overdressing has been a way for European men to flaunt their wealth and power for centuries. Dictated by sumptuary laws, only the rich and magnificent were allowed to dress stylishly and lavishly, proving that sartorial self expression was always tied to gender and class status (“Dyson”). This appears to be the same even today because if you are wealthy and have significant influence, you can wear whatever you want, and, in turn, set fashion trends. Flamboyant dress styles showcased in the exhibition, however, could not have been possible without global trade and significant Non-Western influences from countries like China, Japan, and India.
18th Century European men in high positions of power boasted glorious coats, capes, and gowns with intricate embellishment and embroidery made in expensive fabrics like silk— even more so than in women’s dress (“Men’s Fashion”). European men were highly interested in Chinese design and even wore lavish garments at home, called “banyans." Extravagant robes were used for lounging with male friends, which suggests that they wanted to showcase their riches in every possible manner. These garments today would be considered “feminine.” However, in actuality, they were derived from men’s fashion. The stereotypes also contribute to the false notion that real men don’t wear dresses.
The use of color in men’s wardrobe was integral to showing status and diversity in clothing. Red was often associated with power and gained popularity back in the 16th century when cochineal was introduced from Mexico to Europe (“Stewart”). Yellow was reserved for the royals in China in the 1600s and was introduced into European fashion in the 18th century (“Pastoureau”). Orange gained popularity when red and yellow dyes were mixed from the 1740s onwards (“V&A”). Green has always been used to represent nature and often adorned clothing in dark hues. Blue and purple were always known as regal and royal colors due to their expensive cost, consequently, in places like Ancient Rome, only emperors could afford the dye (“Michaeli”). The color pink has only recently become associated with femininity dating back to the 20th century, while in reality it became fashionable for men and women alike in the 1700s (“Cerini”).
India is renowned for their ample range of pink dyes and its use has always been considered unisex (“V&A”). Colorful dyes were brought from all over the world further proving global influence on European fashion and men’s fashion overall. Notice how bright, vibrant colors, commonly referred to today as “girly,” were extensively used in men’s fashion, yet were never considered explicitly feminine, historically. Colors were not necessarily linked to specific sexes in the past, and should not be in this day and age either.
Today, floral patterns and brocades are mostly associated with femininity, but this concept is more of a recent social phenomenon. Floral patterns have been used for centuries both in male and female fashion around the globe. The paisley can be traced back to Kashmiri roots and other floral prints are also widely used in Bangladeshi fashion (“Everything”). Many floral and nature-based patterns were also used in African cultures taking inspiration from the environment. Roses have always been associated with regality and power, and they have adorned many coats and frocks in menswear (“Frey”). Nowadays if a male wears florals, it will either be viewed as very trendy or labeled by some as “queer.” This perpetuates an extremely harmful stigma and leads to misinterpreting one’s sexual orientation as well. In my opinion, Florals are for everyone!
Suits are a staple for men’s fashion and have been dating back to the 1800s (“Wolf”). The traditional suit has been worn with a multitude of adjustments and changes. These include the collar, the lapel, the buttons, the shoulders, the length, etc. In more recent times, suits have been mixed with other cultural clothing styles to facilitate a merge between Western and other global fashions. My personal favorite, as an Indian American woman, is the Sari Suit by Jean Paul Gaultier which boasts a sari skirt bottom with a striped coat atop— blurring the line between a traditionally female garment in India and a suit.
Suits have become more androgynous and worn by all genders. One of the most popular variations include the pantsuit which can be worn with pants, with a skirt, or even with a dress, making it very versatile. Two notable pieces that close the Fashioning Masculinities exhibit play on the idea of merging a dress and a suit. These two pieces were worn in the past by Billy Porter and Harry Styles. They are prime examples of breaking the sartorial masculine stereotypes and redefining what it means to be, and dress like a man.
Ultimately men’s fashion has changed abundantly throughout history taking influences from numerous cultures. Masculinity has recently been defined by harmful stereotypes, but looking back at menswear historically, it proves that masculinity can and must be reclaimed and redefined by the wearer. The Fashioning Masculinities Exhibit was expertly curated and executed. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend with the University of Georgia Cortona Study Away Program as I am a senior majoring in Fashion Merchandising. This was an invaluable experience for my education and future career, and I would love to attend similar exhibitions with an emphasis on more global cultures.
“Banyan.” Metmuseum.org. 2022. Web.
Cerini, Marianna. “Refined, Rebellious and Not Just for Girls: A Cultural History of Pink.” CNN. 1 Nov 2018. Web. <edition.cnn.com/style/article/history-of-color-pink/index.html>.
Dyson, Humfrey. “British Library.” www.bl.uk. Web. <www.bl.uk/collection-items/proclamation-against-excess-of-apparel-by-queen-elizabeth-i#:~:text=During%20the%20reign%20of%20Queen>.
“Everything You Need to Know about the Paisley Pattern.” Adamley Textiles. 30 July 2021. Web. <adamley.co.uk/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-paisley-pattern/#:~:text=The%20design%20originated%20in%20India>.
Frey, Angelica. “Rose Symbolism throughout Art History.” Art & Object. 5 May 2021. Web. <www.artandobject.com/slideshows/rose-symbolism-throughout-art-history>.
“Men’s Fashion in the 18th Century.” Google Arts & Culture. The Kyoto Costume Institute. Web. <artsandculture.google.com/story/men-s-fashion-in-the-18th-century-kyoto-costume-institute/0AURxWiFuypYKw?hl=en>.
Michaeli, Dov. “A Brief but Powerful History of the Color Purple.” The Doctor Weighs In. 9 Feb 2021. Web.
Pastoureau, Michel. Yellow. Princeton University Press, 2019. Web. 21 Oct 2022. <press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691198255/yellow>.
Stewart, Jessica. “The History of the Color Red: From Ancient Paintings to Louboutin Shoes.” My Modern Met. 26 Sept. 2018. Web. <mymodernmet.com/shades-of-red-color-history/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20oldest%20forms>.
“V&A · In the Pink: Colour in Menswear.” Victoria and Albert Museum. Web. <www.vam.ac.uk/articles/in-the-pink-colour-in-menswear>.
Woolf, Jake. “The History of the Suit by Decade.” GQ. GQ, 6 Apr. 2015. Web. <www.gq.com/gallery/the-gq-history-of-the-suit-by-decade>.
The Victoria and Albert Museum: Fashion as a Reflection of our World
November 01, 2022
Displayed in enormous glass cases, an array of colors and patterns displayed on diverse silhouettes and fabrics beckoned the UGA Cortona fashion students to come forward and browse through a history of fashion archives. They walked through the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s fashion collection, embarking on a spectacular journey of time travel through five centuries of European fashion. Housing an astonishing assortment of rare and historical fashion apparel, ranging from elaborate 17th-century gowns to post-war couture, this exhibition was a favorite of the fashion students during their London experience that started their fall 2022 semester in Cortona, Italy. While particularly focused on European fashion, the collection featured some Chinese, Japanese, and Egyptian dresses as well.
Starting our journey three hundred years ago, a rare English mantua stands alone, its extremely wide hoop taking up the entire glass case. The mantua was an extravagant style of dress worn in the early 18th century by women in the English court. Composed of seven parts, it consists of a bodice with a train at the back, with a matching wide petticoat completing the ensemble. The dress required immense diligence and poise to manage; getting through doorways or into carriages was almost impossible due to the wide span of the hoop. It constricted the women who wore it, reinforcing the societal idea at the time that women were meant to look beautiful and keep quiet. This specific mantua is constructed from ivory silk, patterned with flowers, likely inspired by the French. Studying this rarity, one can imagine how the delicately gold-threaded flowers and leaves likely sparkled and shone under candlelight as the wearer glided and danced gracefully in high society ballrooms.
Presented on the opposite side of the exhibit, a 1937 Neyret white bathing costume tightly hugs a mannequin, accentuating its curves and physique. Revolutionary in its time, the machine-knitted wool maillot was the most popular style for women in the 1930s. This era saw a boom of interest and health and fitness for women, encouraging them to take up swimming as an exercise to keep their figures slim and in shape. Ushered in by the wave of feminism and female empowerment of the 1920s, this fitness movement shifted the view of women from property to people, slowly introducing them into male-dominated sports. As this movement gained traction, swimsuits became less restrictive and modest, allowing for more movement- and more skin to show. Alas, a new category of fashion apparel was born: swimwear. A stark contrast between the modest mantua, this garment reveals legs and arms, even sporting a deep neckline, emphasizing the constantly evolving nature of fashion.
Observing the timeline of dress and accessories, this V&A collection encourages us to reflect on the advancements of fashion throughout history. Fashion is more than dazzling diamond beaded gowns or finely woven goat hair shawls, it’s a reflection of our world and the people that inhabit it. For instance, the progression from restrictive 18th-century corsets to digitally printed t-shirt dresses of the 2010s highlights the liberation of the female form, and in turn the celebration of the female mind. Practicality is a word synonymous with fashion and studying the archives of our fashion history reveals the social, political, and religious pragmatism of our garments.
These fashions lived a life of grandeur before being displayed in their cases, and after witnessing this elaborate collection, UGA Cortona fashion students confidently stepped onto the streets of London with an eagerness to explore the world through the versatile lens of fashion. Through this experience, we all agreed that educating fashion students on the origins, evolutions, and future of dress is of the greatest importance to ensure the art of fashion never dies.
“A History of Women's Swimwear.” Fashion History Timeline, 24 Sept. 2020, https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/a-history-of-womens-swimwear/.
Museum, Victoria and Albert. “Bathing Costume: V&A Explore the Collections.” Victoria and Albert Museum: Explore the Collections, https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O108372/bathing-costume-neyret/.
Museum, Victoria and Albert. “Mantua: Unknown: V&A Explore the Collections.” Victoria and Albert Museum: Explore the Collections, https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O137678/mantua-unknown/.
The Africa Fashion Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum
October 28, 2022
In Oxford, during the first week of our Cortona Study Away Program, fashion students were provided with the option of visiting the Africa Fashion Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Unsurprisingly, the students in our group were not very enthusiastic. I understand it because when most people think of Africa, they think of starving kids, lack of resources and education. Little do they know that Africa is a thriving continent, rich in resources, modern technologies, and creative minds, far beyond the ordinary.
The last thing most think about in reference to Africa is fashion. However, Africa has proven to be extremely influential in the fashion industry presenting through this exhibition some of its fashion creatives for the world to see. I believe many people underestimated this exhibit. It wasn’t a lot of “high fashion,” which, I think, the majority of my peers were expecting. Instead, it was a journey of the evolution of fashion in Africa, culminating in what it has become today.
In celebration of African fashion and designers from over 20 countries, the Africa Fashion Exhibition is undeniably unique and one of a kind. As an aspiring young black female designer, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see this phenomenal exhibition. The exhibition showcases Africa’s first fashion designers along with the new generation of designers, expressing how the past has helped shape African fashion today. The Africa Fashion Exbition is much needed. I finally felt like I belonged in that exhibition. Being the only African American on our trip, it was something I could really relate to. Even though the exhibition was small, I was surprised that it showcased as much as it did. It was also in the V&A, at the same time as the Fashioning Masculinities Exhibition. However, of course, the Fashioning Masculinities show got a lot more attention and traction. That exhibit was bigger and more well attended as well.
The Africa Fashion Exhibition started off talking about the history of fashion in Africa, which I will talk about later. Then, it went into the display of more modern designers and artists. It enlightened this young girl’s heart to see how they highlighted so many places in Africa, including Johannesburg and Cape Town, which are major fashion cities. Yet, the most intriguing part of the exhibition features Nigeria’s first modern fashion designer and pioneer, 89-year-old Shade Thomas-Fahm. She is also known as the first fashion designer to open a fashion boutique in Nigeria. Her original plan was to become a nurse, so she moved from Nigeria to London to pursue this goal, but after discovering a window display while there, she knew fashion was her calling. After studying fashion, she returned to Nigeria to begin her design career. This began during a time which is now known as the African Cultural Renaissance. This was a time when political unrest and social change was taking place. However, frustrations stemming from what was taking place in Africa at that time, seemed to awaken creative thinking. Instead of oppressing creativity, it resulted in a burst of energy and provided a forceful, positive outlet. As a result, it seems that many forms of creativity have developed in Africa including in the realm of music, fashion, visual arts, protest posters, etc. This was indeed an era of radical change!
Every artist or designer has a reason behind the way they do what they do. The making and wearing of indigenous cloths in African countries tells stories of strategic political acts. An example is the commemorative cloth made following the release of Nelson Mandela who became the first black President of South Africa. It was a time when Africans were seeking “a better life for all--working together for jobs, peace and freedom.”
Fashion in Africa is far from boring. It has a story to tell. My favorite piece was the “Irene” dress by Patience Torlowei. It is a black, off the shoulder dress with silk embroidery. I love flowy dresses and gold details. The dress was inspired by the bathing dresses of the past, but the Irene dress is a study of modern femininity.
African Fashion is a journey through Africa, and it is notable that it demonstrates how to create something out of nothing. The different and bold styles along with the vibrant colors and eccentric designs speak to the rich and diverse heritage of the continent. The unique African culture has shaped its modern-day creative fashion designs to be revered in the industry. It brings comfort to someone like me, who is diligently working towards a career in fashion, to see the dedication that has gone towards executing this exhibition in such a dynamic way.
Paolo Scafora visits UGA Cortona to Discuss the Art of Bespoke Shoe-Making in Naples
October 25, 2022
Who is Paolo Scafora?
Born in the warm glow of the early 1970s in Naples, Paolo Scafora grew up learning the trade of shoe-making from his father, Gennaro, who sought to instill in his children that hard work and perseverance do pay off. Paolo loved to be around his father’s workshop and learn the tricks of the trade, with the smells and colors of the different combinations of leather skins around him. He also proved himself as a worthy craftsman before he moved to Milan during his early twenties to pursue and strengthen his knowledge in the art of shoe-making. After many years of traveling abroad, Paolo returned to Naples, where he, alongside his brothers, created the luxury brand we know today. UGA fashion merchandising students had the greatest pleasure in welcoming Paolo and his team to campus where he went into great detail explaining his complex business model and the intricate art of crafting shoes by hand.
What is a Bespoke Business?
For those who may be wondering, the “Bespoke” service is a form of service that can accommodate any requests regarding customization, design, and construction. It requires Paolo to personally meet with his clients to discuss the many specifications of their orders. The first meeting consists of taking the customer’s measurements, as well as discerning their preferences for a shoe last. At this meeting, the style, materials, colors, sole, and shoe construction are selected and any personal customization requests are noted. The following meeting will consist of the customer trying on the wooden shoe last made to create a “fitting pair” in case any modifications may still need to be made. Any necessary adjustments are made, and, finally, a brand-new pair is created, the “final one.” At this point, Paolo attends a final meeting with his clients to make sure everything is exactly to their liking. This rounds out the service, as all the work is completed and (hopefully) the client is happily on their way with a brand-new pair of Paolo Scafora artisanal shoes. They also offer Made-To-Order for their customers, as well as Made-To-Measure options. These different avenues allow customers to not only take part in an ultimate shoe experience, but are also a means for consumers to become the proud owner of a specialty item that is made just for them.
How do They make Shoes?
The shoe-making process consists of meticulous work and considerable effort. It takes minimum a decade to learn the craft of shoemaking and mastering its every detail. As he was explaining the processes he uses, we got insight into how they differ from other bespoke services. They use several kinds of styles, some of which Paolo talked about, the Norwegian and Goodyear, for example. The Norwegian is different in that the stitching of the shoe is seen on the outside leather. Whereas the Goodyear consists of one stitch through the insole, the upper, and the welt. He was kind enough to demonstrate how the process works through a series of images where he explained the techniques and the reasons why they use them. To be able to see the entire process from the cutting of the leather to the addition of the sole is something I had never seen. I know everyone else was just as intrigued. Each piece of the shoe is prepared separately before the stitching even begins, and all parts of the leather are cut by hand. They promise a continuous stitch through and through, so once it starts it does not stop until the entire shoe is pieced together. A toe hardener is added after the cutting of materials, and they take the pieces and nail them by hand with a hammer till all the flaps are secure. The leather upper is reinforced in almost the same manner as the toe hardener but is done so across the entirety of the upper part of the shoe. Last, the sole is stamped with the Paolo Scafora crest, which is made up of the Naples crest and modified to an extent to include lions upholding two cornucopias. This exemplifies how proud they are of where they come from. The painting of the shoes takes about four days. Each shoe starts as white leather before being transformed into the color specified by its customers.
What Did We Learn?
For most of us, this was the first time we were able to get first-hand, real-industry experience of shoemaking in a presentation form. This was especially important as the information came from someone significant in the Italian market for the last several decades. We gained his perspective on the meaning behind what is it to be crafted “by hand.” He explained that his customers value the work his artisans do, because as he put it, “You are investing in an art form.” The concept that these shoes are a work of art allowed us to dive deeper into the meaning behind: Why this is meaningful, which is a core question in one of our classes. Paolo explained to us that while they make expensive shoes, (they run around 1200 Euros) he feels the price is justified because it is not about how expensive something is, it is more about the cultural capital that one gains from the knowledge of owning a handcrafted pair of shoes and thus supporting the Italian tradition of crafts. In other words, customers are buying more history and culture than just a good product. They are advancing this idea that the more one learns about a culture, the more it helps to create a space that is inclusive and considerate of all people.
The Fashioning Masculinities Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London
October 25, 2022
We spent the first 5 days of the 2022 Cortona Study Away program in the United Kingdom. While there, we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum where the Fashioning Masculinities exhibit was on display. It was an eye-opening experience because it showed fashion on a whole new level!
Looking at the displayed objects was like following a real-life timeline of menswear morphing overtime into the pieces we encounter today on the red carpet like Harry Styles’ Gucci gown from the 2020 Vogue cover or Christian Siriano’s tuxedo gown Billy Porter wore to the Oscars in 2019, which close out the exhibition. The ornate or transparent fabrics that were used create an effect expected to be seen primarily in women’s clothing, therefore they have opened up a whole new world of creativity and were also testing traditional gender barriers.
The exhibit seemed to be all about comparing the past and the present and attempting to understand that many of the new styles we see today in men’s fashion were set by historical precedents. It demonstrates that what we consider feminine today was seen as masculine in the past. The pieces also showcased what high class male wardrobe looked like over time.
This exhibit was quite striking and food for thought as it calls into question what defines masculinity. Masculinity is defined by the social expectations that come with being a man, the roles, characteristics, and behaviors that are deemed appropriate in a society. The meaning and content of masculinity have been limited by society over the decades and this exhibit attempts to redirect and transform our thoughts and views on what masculinity is about or what it entails. The Fashioning Masculinities exhibit was sponsored by Gucci whose creative director, Alessandro Michele, has made it his expressed goal to eliminate toxic masculinity from menswear and transforming fashion to become gender-neutral. Three main galleries make up the exhibition, titled Underdressed, Overdressed, and Redressed. The three themes are not shown chronologically but in a way that addresses the specific theme of each room. The exhibit does a great job of outlining the social and cultural norms and rules of masculinity by focusing on what the ideal male body was or is today, what men historically wore, and how that has shifted and brought us to where we are now.
The first room, Underdressed, is about examining the male body and the clothing that adorns it. In this room there were nude statues, the portrayal of naked bodies, and a plethora of sheer fabrics adorning the male form. There was also a contemporary suit jacket created by Jean Paul Gaultier that highlights the features of an idealized male body through creating the illusion of a naked torso. The message in this room, to me, was all about what we consider to be the male beauty standard, how that has stemmed from history and how that has been taken into account when it comes to men’s clothing.
The Overdressed gallery showcases how historically high-class men were adorned. They wore flamboyant, lavish fabrics like silks in bright, bold colors. The silhouettes were, unlike today, very full. There were also a lot of lace cravats and suits inspired by socialites like Beau Brummel, who we discussed at length in our Fashion: Why is it Meaningful class this semester. This gallery of the exhibit highlights the shift of historic outfits over time and gears everyone up for the next gallery.
In the Redressed gallery the focus was on the development of the suit and contrasting the origins of this garment with its contemporary re-imaginings. The ongoing influence of military dress in fashion was also discussed, which isn’t surprising because the 19th century morphed menswear into a more functional form as a result of the industrialization that happened in Europe. It made the suit into a status symbol. The Industrial Revolution led to mass manufacturing which spurred suits into a modern, rather universal uniform. The Redressed gallery also showcases current designers’ work that dissolve the suit and the normal conventions for masculinity, morphing them into less gendered pieces.
The entire exhibit aimed at de-gendering clothing by showcasing the history of menswear and highlighting how certain designers and celebrities are working to break down traditional norms. I felt like this was really well accomplished. My only complaint would be that the exhibition focused mainly on pieces from Europe and North America and there weren’t many clothes displayed from anywhere else. Fashioning Masculinities also focuses on evaluating elite male dress historically and provides opportunities to showcase contemporary pieces inspired by historical ones. At the same time, I would have liked to see some ordinary, everyday pieces outside the scope of the upper class as well. Overall, this was an amazing exhibit and I hope to see more exhibits built off of this one because I believe there is a lot more to be said on the topic.
Technology In Retail From London to Milan
October 18, 2022
Technology is infiltrating into the retail industry today and is drastically shifting how the workforce functions and its environment. Technological breakthroughs create a quicker and easier retail experience, forming the discussion of how peak customer service engagement can be reached. Although the technology is new, a handful of popular companies have already implemented innovative fibers, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to their services. We have seen the digitization of retail on the streets of Milan, in the high fashion concept stores of London, and sprinkled about Oxford Street. Specific examples of London and Italy’s usage of retail technology in their metropolitan cities fortify how industrialized fashion has become across the globe. Technology in fashion can be seen in innovative materials, virtual try-on’s, and as an artistic statement- all contributing to the importance of the retail industry developing alongside science and the technology industry.
Technology in retail also emcompasses the physical makeup of the clothes themselves, with Uniqlo being a prime example. During our trip to Oxford, we saw a brick-and-mortar Uniqlo in the heart of the city. It was the London global flagship store on Oxford Street, considered one of the world's top shopping areas. Uniqlo is a Japanese clothing brand hyper focused on innovative textiles and fibers. They implemented their 2 HeatTech technology in 2003, a surprising fiber composition in which the fabric warms itself. The ability to convert kinetic energy from the human body into heat was one of the first technological advances Uniqlo implemented. Their AIRism fabrics were launched in 2013, and quickly became some of their most important products. The fabric is made from ultra-thin polyester fibers twelve times smaller than a human hair. The ability to mass produce these chemical heavy fibers for large scale consumption is a relatively new concept, but quickly enveloped the retail industry as a new norm. The Uniqlo philosophy illustrates innovation at the service of functionality, and always placing more emphasis on materials technology than on the eccentricities of design. Experiencing the store in person, one can see how these ideals align in their merchandising today, and how Japan has made its mark in Europe in such a prestigious area for fashion.
Combining technology with a retail store’s merchandising, operations, and aesthetic has been a prevalent marketing tactic in recent decades, and Milan is no exception. Upon entering the city, their fashion influence can be noticed immediately. Being such a metropolitan city with fashion roots, they consistently produce new solutions for enhancing retail services. During our visit we saw the Vans concept store accompanied with a projector to virtually try on merchandise. Rinascente, a department store in Milan, features a cosmetics section with mirrors to virtually try on various makeup products. Not only is technology used to streamline the retail experience, but also as a way to enhance a fashion as an artform to appeal to the consumer. Going back to London, Dover Street Market in London is a prime example of how to transform a space with artforms through static TV’s, LED lights, and techno music. High fashion and modern designers have honed in on the appeal of this futuristic aesthetic, and can now be seen in art exhibits, brick-and-mortar stores, and on the runway
Our class, Fashion and Why is it Meaningful, has discussed the importance of slow fashion with the drastic human consumption levels in recent years. New sustainability movements have taken the world by storm, and younger generations are slowly rewiring their shopping habits to support brands with the same ideals. As much as consumers as a whole are becoming smarter shoppers and trying to cut down on consumption, this has no hindrance on technology infiltration. It was once widely agreed that technology should be “invisible” to customers as it can be considered unnecessary if it does not carry out a designated task. Today, however, technology has been more prevalent and outwardly noticeable in fashion than ever before. Digitalization and technological advances within retail businesses was a choice before, but has now become a necessity. As progression into the digital era deepens, it is considered a new norm to upgrade the retail experience for the sake of efficiency. Technological 4 advancements and profit have a direct relationship, but no matter how digitalized a company is, the humanistic approach to customer service will always be needed.
From the United States, to London, and to Italy, we have vividly seen the rise in science and technological advances in retail stores, marketing, and e-commerce. Human consumption is at an all time high, and the demand of technology and constant new trends all allude to the biggest question in fashion- what comes next?
Staff, N. (2020, June 17). How uniqlo airism technology works. nss magazine. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.nssmag.com/en/fashion/22757/tecnologia-uniqlo-airism-toray
Wadhawan, Neha, and Amit Seth. (2016, December 16). Technology Revolutionizing Retail Practices in Digital Era. International Journal of Recent Research Aspects, pp. 60–62. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=a9h&AN=124330 635&site=eds-live&scope=site.