What a wonderful life! I’m feeling so inspired by the fine craftsmanship of the artisans and the Italian lifestyle. On Monday we visited the Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio, a textile factory situated in the hills surrounding the city of Florence, which utilizes the finest and oldest hand-weaving techniques for silks, velvet and precious metals. The company’s founder, Giuseppe Lisio opened his first workshop in 1906, supported by only a handful of handlooms. Lisio had many years of experience in weaving silk in Milan and quickly helped his company to grow and obtain recognition for their high quality products and expert craftsmanship.
Previous clients of Fondazione Lisio included the fashion house and Fendi for their famous velvet logo bags (you may have seen these on the arm of one Carrie Bradshaw). Entirely original designs can be found all around the workshop, the most impressive a small piece of fabric on display with a value of 9,000 Euros per square metre. The high price can be attributed to the precious materials used including the cost of labour with just 5-10 cm achieved per full working day for complex designs. The weaving is carried out by hand on looms, using silk, silver and gold threads with some looms taking anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to set up. One artisan we observed in the workshop had completed a project, which lasted two whole years.
Later that afternoon we visited Gucci Museo and Museo Ferragamo. My love affair with Gucci began five years ago when my mum gifted me with my first grown-up perfume titled Gucci Guilty. The building Gucci Museo is housed in Palazzo della Mercanzia, which has previously hosted numerous government officials of the Medici family. The Museum is an enormous exhibit designed and curated by the previous head designer Frida Giannini. The museum hosts over 90 years of Gucci’s proud history as one of the finest luxury brands in the world. As a self-confessed shoe-hoarder I loved Ferragamo and nearly fainted when I saw the mold of Audrey Hepburn’s feet on display next to the likes of Angelina Jolie and Prince George. The prototypes aligning the walls highlight the creativity and originality of Salvatore Ferragamo and his legacy.
The next two days we learnt more about the Italian fashion systems, fashion blogging 101 and fashion writing while eating our way through the town’s Gelato supply. We visited a few more textile, shoe and jewelry workshops along the way and I ended up meeting a designer who knew Liza Emanuele, a designer from South Australia who I have gotten to know through the industry by attending her fashion shows and catching up at events.
On Friday we visited a designer vintage store to pull looks for our group editorial we are shooting in our final week. We found plenty of options and I found a black Valentino blazer, which I might will be going back for this week. (Please fashion gods let it still be there!) We then took a short train ride to visit the Museo del Tessuto di Prato. The museum was incredible and one of my favourite parts was feeling samples of the different textiles and reading all about their production history.
On Friday night our group of eleven treated ourselves to a night of dining in luxury at In Fabbrica, the restaurant upstairs in the famous Pampeloni workshop. We were recommended to the restaurant through people we met at the Pitti Uomo event last week. After dressing up and cabbing it there (because of our heels) we were greeted by the families’ excited puppy and offered glasses of white wine. Each meal was beautifully prepared and brought out on the expensive, luxurious silverware Pampeloni is famous for.
We felt like we were in an episode of Downton Abbey, even though some of us (me) had to double-check with Tash, our Downton expert which knives and forks to use. We even forced Emily, the birthday girl to sit at the head of the table in the throne. After a few bottles of wine served in magnificent silver goblets we caught taxis home and stumbled into bed, all before 11pm might I say! #responsiblestudents
On Saturday I hopped on the first train to Milan with Alyce and although we didn’t do too much damage with the shopping, we still took full advantage of our day. In ten hours we walked around the enormous Cathedral, paid 1 Euro to use public restrooms, ate pizza, had Mercury cocktails for lunch and walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. To finish off our day trip we walked half an hour to the Armani Silos, a museum curated by Mr Giorgio Armani himself, housing over 40 years of excellence. The museum was possibly the highlight of the trip so far! Seeing pieces in person worn by the likes of Katie Holmes and admiring the details and beading on some of the pieces made me want to stay there forever. We virtually stayed until it closed and they had to kindly remind us to rejoin reality and leave.
To end off the week, we booked a horseback riding tour through the Tuscan countryside. We were greeted on the Sunday by our tour guide Manny at 10am who drove us through Chianti region to the ranch where we were met by our horses. Being an experienced rider from way back and knowing we were in good hands made the trail ride so peaceful and lovely. We then drove to Monteriggioni, a charming medieval town in the countryside where we quickly took in the historical sights and then headed straight for their pizzeria for our daily margarita. We couldn’t force ourselves to do anything for the rest of the day, choosing to run to the kebab shop next door in our trackies for dinner over the fresh stir fry we originally had planned.
Although I am exhausted, I’m so not ready for this trip to be over. I have made so many wonderful friends and I can’t believe this is the last week!