The Future of Fashion | Students in Florence Define Tomorrow’s Trends

By Gabby Burdick
Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

Much like Milan, New York City, and Paris, Florence is commonly considered one of the world's fashion capitals. However, different from these other cities, Florence is better known as a fashion capital by those who work directly in the industry than by the general public. 

From retailers to producers, Florence is the hotspot for industry professionals to observe upcoming fashion trends and innovations. The city is recognized as the perfect place for those who want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the fashion industry. 

Students from various places travel specifically to Florence for their renowned fashion programs. One specific group of students came all the way from Fairfield University in Connecticut to expand their fashion knowledge. 

While these students have an extremely strong interest in the fashion industry, they’re unable to further their experience back in Fairfield, as there’s no fashion marketing program offered directly on campus. So, these marketing students have traveled almost 700 miles to study in Florence for five months and pursue their interests in fashion. 

The fashion marketing students at Florence University of the Arts - The American University of Florence, involved in a program called the School of Fashion and Accessory Studies and Technology (FAST), work to research trend habits, shape and maintain brands, and provide retail customers with a satisfactory shopping experience. 

The students learn and engage in experiential projects at a public retail store called Fashion Loves You (FLY), which offers an array of student-made and vintage designer clothing and accessories. Recently, the marketing students have been learning how to properly serve clients at FLY. 

Fashion instructor Christina Ferro advised the students to observe what shoppers look like and what they’re wearing in order to helpfully suggest an item they feel the shopper would buy. To practice this skill, Ferro described a potential customer and told students to build them an outfit. 

The first client Ferro described was a classy Parisian woman with a sophisticated sense of style. Immediately, the students went to work, racing around the store, leafing through multiple racks of fur coats and lacey gowns while Ferro offered advice. 

“Whenever we have someone who’s French, show them the French stuff immediately. It gets them in the mood and shows them that you respect them,” Ferro said. 

The students began pulling out pieces of Chanel, chic and formal, to accommodate the hypothetical French shopper's sense of style. 

This activity continued on with a few more potential shoppers, one of them being a young Russian woman with an eccentric, colorful, and maximal sense of style.

One student, Ella Cimino, immediately pulled out a fur hat with a long raccoon tail draped from the back. 

“Fur makes me think Russian right away, that’s why I chose it,” Cimino said. Another student, Simona Gheorghe, pulled out a pair of bright red, knee-high boots. 

“She’s very out there, so I immediately thought of red. You can never go wrong with a pop of color,” Gheorghe said. 

The more these exercises went on, the quicker the students were able to pick out clothing and accessories for these hypothetical clients. The point of the activity was to push the students to get a better understanding of a customer's wants and needs so they can successfully serve a client base in the future. 

This type of experiential learning allows the students to work directly with the customers who are interested in supporting the brand they’re shaping and buying the products they market. 

The student’s experiential learning continues outside of FLY at Pitti Uomo. Located at Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Pitti Uomo is a trade show intended to launch new trends and designs in men's fashion. 

The purpose of a tradeshow is for brands to showcase their latest collections to buyers, acting as the meeting point between the manufacturing and the retail sides of the fashion industry. 

The students attended the show on the last day of the event, where they were instructed to examine trends and concentrate on branding and marketing in the fashion industry. Angela Belsino, the general director at FLY, explained the purpose of the student’s visit to the trade show. 

“They will focus on the marketing side of the trade show; it’s a moment for all the main brands and new designers to meet with the industry,” Belsino said. “They’re going to look at three brands and reflect on the promotional and marketing sides, the styles, and fashion forecasting.” 

The trade show is a way for these fashion students to apply their learning to the professional fashion world, and Pitti Uomo is just about as professional as it gets. 

Fashion marketing student Danielle Wass enjoyed her time at Pitti Uomo and felt as though she learned a lot about the industry. 

“It was really interesting to interact with designers, and it was especially cool to see buyers interact with designers,” Wass said. 

Students like Anton Licanele described the trade show as a very “hands-on” aspect of everything they’ve been learning about.

Wass and Licanele are both very excited to see what the rest of the semester will entail. 

Angela Belsino explained that towards the end of the semester, the students will put on a final show displaying pieces created by the fashion design students; the event will be organized by the fashion marketing students. 

The marketing students will be selecting the pieces showcased in the event, a cultivation of all the styling and branding skills they’ll learn throughout the semester.

Tiny Florence: A Student Exhibit

Hosted at Via Ricasoli, 21’s Palazzi Community Center on May 30, “Tiny Florence” showcases the work of summer semester FUA-AUF study abroad students enrolled in both the courses of Introduction to Digital Photography and Intermediate Landscape and Architectural Photography.

A Class Without a Classroom

The city of Florence replaces the traditional classroom setting for students enrolled in FUA-AUF’s Painting En Plein Air class.

Inside the Mind of Leonardo

The class, which counts for three semester credits, serves as an overview of da Vinci’s life, art, and his experiential and interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of nature.

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