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An Explosion of Color

It was an exciting development for ISI Florence to have a Fashion Journalism/Media class offered to full enrollment this January 2019. Building on the success of the summer term classes, which visited the June edition of the Pitti Uomo menswear trade shows in the past years, in January 2019 my class of 50 was able to attend the equally famous Pitti Filati show for knitwear and textiles. Mike Donnelly’s report for the class shows the positive impact that being able to attend such an exclusive event can have on undergraduate students. The opportunity to meet and interview executives and representatives from some of the leading manufacturers of fine wools and silks (used in clothing by world-famous designers) presented to the students an unrivaled experience sure to be of interest and use for their future careers and courses.

Moreover, a special event took place on February 12, 2019 in Florence to commemorate the very first fashion show held in post-war Italy in 1951.  Italian design from this moment on became a heavyweight competitor to the leading Paris houses of couture, and the famous “Made in Italy” economic miracle of the country’s revival owes much to the role of fashion beginning from that point.  I was fortunate enough to be invited by Neri Fadigati, the grandson of the organizer of that first fashion show, entrepreneur Giovanni Giorgini.  Leading archivists and fashion scholars from Italy and the UK attended the show, and I found it a remarkable opportunity to make contacts that will help further expand the ISI Florence course, which is unique for its concentration on developing communication skills in fashion as practiced right in the very heart of the industry.

Professor Mark Bernheim, Ph.D.
ISI Florence

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Florence is considered to be one of the most influential fashion cities in the world. While much recognition is given to Milan and Paris, Florence is home to Pitti Immagine: a series of fashion-centered trade shows that draw hundreds of international brands to showcase their work to industry professionals. These are not open to the general public, but the unique opportunity was presented to me to attend the 84th edition of Pitti Immagine Filati (the main international event for the knitting yarn industry) through the Fashion, Media and Communications course at ISI Florence.

The trade show was hosted in the historic Fortezza da Basso, and I attended on the bright, but chilly final day of the three-day event. After walking the long grey carpet, flanked by the dull walls of the Fortezza, entering into the show room I was taken aback by the sudden explosion of color. Swatches of fabric, spools of yarn, and arrays of vibrant examples of what could be done with each company’s materials filled the 20,000 square meters of exhibition space. Across the rooms, producers set up their booths in a veritable maze of bright fabric.

We took time to learn more about Filmar Network, a large company that produces primarily cotton. After browsing their display, a representative at the booth was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss their philosophy and products. The conversation lasted nearly twenty minutes and made us familiar with both Filmar and – more specifically – its commitment to sustainability. As the Filmar representative explained, sustainability is now a very important theme in this industry. We were shown each product currently being offered by the company in their brochure, which is usually reserved for industry professionals looking to make a purchase.

As a whole, the Pitti Filati was an undeniable success. There were an estimated 119 brands present, including 21 from outside of Italy, proving this to be an international event. There were expected to be 4,350 buyers over the three days of the show with a staggering 1,800 from outside of Italy’s borders. The show happens only twice a year and the opportunity not only to attend, but to interact with those in the industry is an experience not soon to be forgotten.

Mike Donnelly
University of Virginia