Winter jackets are wet from early morning January storms. Sunlight bounces into perfect squares, warming up empty seats on the way to one of Polimoda's three campuses. Keep an eye out on the beloved black totes; when they rise, you'll know where to find the Polimoda makers.
Tucked in the Tuscan hills on the outskirts of the city center, Polimoda's Design Lab intimidates at first; the two-floor stark white building stands out in a familiar sea of typical Florentine homes and cypress trees. Gucci and Prada factory neighbors sit nearby yet go unnoticed as stillness reigns.
Students shuffle in the hallways as happy-go-lucky 80s music comes out of the speakers. But the classrooms are quiet with the makers of tomorrow and their artisan dreams. To the left, a Shoe Design student works on a pair of neon sneakers. Leaning on a messy workbench, he talks about weekend plans with his classmate as he labors on the unfinished shoe resting on his thigh. He never looks up. She doesn't either, focused on a pair of slinky sky-high heels. She stops, lightly blowing on the sole. Every motion is soft and slow.
What is below the wrist takes center stage. Sticky, stained and dirty, the hands of creatives who chose creativity over safe office jobs like the rest of us. It doesn't feel right to call them students. They're makers. Still and ultra-focused, there's laid-back confidence in each movement.
"It doesn't feel right to call them students. They're makers."
The laboratories smell like Italian coffee and glue with touches of varnish and leather. It's products coming to life. The sweat and tears behind the leather purse, the hours of craftsmanship for the flawless shoe and the baby cuts and scratches from assembling accessories are the real truths hidden behind Scandicci walls.
It's a normal day at the Design Lab. A student swings an unfinished leather bag in hand, moving swiftly from one room to another. The tiniest scraps of leather fall off rolled up sleeves.
Teachers sit beside young makers, advising delicately and observing them craft products with head and heart. A wispy reminder that the purses we throw on our unmade beds and leather boots we rush out of the house in without a second thought were made by someone with soul and purpose.
"Anyone who's ever felt a little different dreams about this kind of reckless acceptance."
Polimoda students make making look so easy. It might trick you enough into thinking you can be a maker too. As they work, they speak to each other in Itanglish, a language often heard in Florence, made up of an endearing blend of Italian and English. There's no denying the melting pot of cultural fluency ruling the school. Anyone who's ever felt a little different dreams about this kind of reckless acceptance.
Class ends and a student with a million-dollar smile yells "Arrivederci Prof!" from the stairway. They're not your typical artisans. They're young creatives in airpods, raised on the internet and dressed in perfectly ironed shirts. These are the makers of tomorrow, and their hands tell forever stories we'll always want to wear.
Article by Lisa-Marie Proteau
Photography by Serena Gallorini