Our third week in Florence was packed with visits to a number of different Florentine artisans who hand make their products in workshops dotted around the city. We visited The Fondazione Arte Della Seta Lisio (Lisio Foundation), a textile factory that uses ancient weaving techniques that are entirely carried out by hand on a traditional Jacquard loom. The factory recreates fabrics inspired for traditional designs and has partnered with Fendi to create designs for the iconic baguette bag and a number of museums to restore aging exhibits. Only 10-20 centimeters of the incredible hand-made fabrics can only be completed per day due to the delicate and time-consuming nature of the work. Pretty amazing!
We visited Paulo Penko, a goldsmith workshop run by a father and son team who create hand crafted renaissance inspired jewellery using ancient methods. The best and worst part of visiting the workshop was the opportunity to make our own original Firenzian coins by smashing two plates with a tiny slither of silver jammed between them with a huge sledgehammer, safe to say I would not have been employed for my smith work, a harsh reminder of my severe lack of coordination and strength, I blame all the pizza…
Across the Ponte Vecchio we visited Stefano Bemer, who specializes in the creation of custom fitted handmade leather shoes for men. Tommaso Melani explained the construction process, which was being carried out in the middle of the store by the craftsman. He explained how the company provides superior ‘made in Italy’ quality but for an affordable price making them unique to the market.
After a pizza break, we visited the Gucci Museum, an archive of Gucci’s most iconic pieces. We toured through the history of the famous Bamboo Handbag, the origins of Gucci Flora and had coffee in the Gucci Café and browsed through the bookshop filled with fashion books by a myriad of different fashion houses and designers. My favorite part of the exhibit was the collection of evening dresses worn by Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Jessica Chastain, Evan Rachel Wood and Cameron Diaz for red carpet events. On a serious fashion high we wandered over to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, filled with floor to ceiling with incredible shoe prototypes and famous footwear worn by celebrities and on movies sets. The highlight of this tour was the wooden shoe molds of fashion icons over the decades including Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor so Mr. Ferragamo could handcraft designs for celebrities and silver screen actresses.
To finish our school week we visited Prato with Prof. Constanza Menchi, who enlightens us about the ins and outs of the Italian Fashion System. After a squishy train ride we strolled through the streets of the little Tuscan city until we arrived at the Prato Textile Museum, and saw how a number of fabrics are constructed from silk to polyester. We saw a display of different kinds of dress from different decades and how the colours and the quality of the fabrics showed your social status.
This week we had our first styling class with Daniela Fiorelli were we learnt how to construct mood boards to prepare for out photo shoot. We visited my new favourite designer vintage store Street Doing to select pieces for our shoot, and do some cheeky shopping of course. Literally, the store broke my bank! But who can say no to 1990’s Christian Dior?
Course work aside, not that you can really call it work, we began our weekend by dining at In Fabbrica a restaurant above the Pampaloni workshop. Pampaloni is a 100 year old family business, sibling duo Gianfranco and Francesco whom make handmade silverware, dining settings and even adorable structured handbags and clutch purses using traditional artisan techniques passed down from their grandfather. The food was amazing in the beautiful rustic setting, and is definitely a to do when in Florence.
Early on Saturday morning my trusty splurging side-kick and I caught the train to Milan. We wandered from the train station through the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, which houses some amazing luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Armani and the original Prada store. We visted The Duomo and the Museo del Novecento, well the outside the line was outrageous and we only had one short day! Once we had finished our sightseeing we had pizza and cocktails in an adorable café and wandered up and down the shopping strip. The highlight of my day in Milan (and probably the whole trip) was visiting Armani/Silos, a perfectly curated collection of Armani pieces dating from 1980 until today. Each of the 4 floors shows the styles divided by themes, themes that have inspired and continue to inspire the creative work of Giorgio Armani. It was the most beautiful collection of the clothing, and I have some serious respect for Mr. Armani and the detail in his incredibly detailed works.
After a very late night and a serious struggle to part with bed, we set off the next morning to Monteriggioni, a small town in Tuscany with a measly population of 47 people. We visited a traditional Tuscan ranch to tour the countryside on horseback, and Ida (my four legged travel guide) did an exceptional job. After a quick pizza stop we travelled back to our apartments and got in our PJs for some much needed downtime ready to start our last week in Florence!