The Fashion, Media, and Communication Course Opens New Doors to Learning

This semester’s Fashion, Media, and Communication course provided new and ongoing learning opportunities. The class’s focus is on how fashion is written about and the role of communication in the world of design.

Florence is the ideal place to take part in the life of fashion, as it is a vital part of Italian culture. The city brims with designers’ workshops and stores, as well as important museums and archives that make it, along with Milan, the centerpiece of the “Made in Italy” spotlight on Italian design.

The class is all about writing. Students are asked to analyze their styles and the way they present themselves in both the US and Europe. They have the opportunity to use their weekly travels as well as the precious time spent in Florence. They analyze both the clothes & accessories they wear as well as what they see around them. They gain a greater awareness of what style means and how to create one for themselves that they can comfortably live with.

Students write about themselves and how they interact with the styles of Italy. They report on what they see and understand the role Italy plays as a leading force in elegance and self-presentation. They made eight fascinating onsite visits during the term, seeing how leather goods are produced and marketed for both men and women.

They visited the famous archives of the creator of the first fashion shows in Italy (1951) and heard his grandson, Neri Fadigati, explain how the American influence in the 1950s was important in launching Italy as a center of style and design.
They saw the incredibly rich collections of Gucci and Ferragamo for leather and fashion, enjoying guided tours through the annals of high design.  They toured the oldest pharmacy in Europe today, hosting hundreds of fine fragrances and oils to sample.
They spent a day at the cultural treasure-house of the Zeffirelli Foundation, seeing the world-renowned stage and opera sets and costumes.
They went to the industrial zone outside the city center for a presentation at the Mazzanti Feather Workshop where accessories and garments from feathers and plumes are produced for the leading fashion designers of the world.

They also toured the unique central train station of Florence to learn about the architectural history of this impressive building. While there, they also paid respects at the Track 16 Holocaust Memorial from where hundreds of people were deported to their deaths at Auschwitz in 1943 and learned a bit of the history of those tragic days.

Students continued to write about fashion and themselves all term, how to read fashion criticism in media such as the NY Times, and how to emulate the style of the most important fashion commentators now at work in the media. They produced a final project, creating a wardrobe for future students coming to Italy – what to wear and bring, what not to, and where to find one for now at prices they can afford.

We hope these creative students will pass the word along about what they did and what they learned about themselves and the world around them in Italy to future participants in summer, fall, and spring terms. Fashion, Writing, and Italy all belong together!

Dr. Mark Bernheim
Professor Emeritus, ISI Florence


As a special aside, an alumna of the class reported that she returned to the University of Maryland following a term at ISI Florence and has recently established a new magazine on campus covering the fashion and style of her school, involving not only herself and other alumni of ISI Florence, but other UMD students! A great opportunity for building a career in fashion media work for herself and others. Details from Erin Garry at [email protected] and Congratulations Erin, on this outstanding initiative!