The hidden identity of Florence

A Renaissance museum under the open sky, Florence is abounding in masterpieces formed by the personalities of their creators among whom are of course Michelangelo, da Vinci, Dante and Machiavelli. Despite being widely considered as the best travel destination in Europe, Florence warrants much more than a brief tourist visit to discover the personality of …

A Renaissance museum under the open sky, Florence is abounding in masterpieces formed by the personalities of their creators among whom are of course Michelangelo, da Vinci, Dante and Machiavelli. Despite being widely considered as the best travel destination in Europe, Florence warrants much more than a brief tourist visit to discover the personality of this city. The extraordinary wealth accumulated during the 15th Century turned the city into an incubator of art, science, philosophy and literature. It nurtures human creativity and instigates spiritual transformation.

It is not by chance that Polimoda has chosen Florence as its one and only location. First of all, this city has a unique way of sheltering those who live here from the excessive noise of the outside world, thus providing the perfect environment to concentrate, learn and self-reflect. This all prompts personal growth, which is also one of the school’s priorities for its students. The city undoubtedly has also played a historic role in the formation of contemporary fashion. For centuries Florence encouraged a constant synergy between art, fashion, society and industry; something that continues today.

Florence - Tunnel

Establishing the global fashion industry

Italian fashion during the Renaissance, popularised by designs worn by the Medici family and Catherine de Medici in particular, greatly influenced the way people dressed in the rest of Europe. Centuries later, Florence regained its role as a fashion centre and paved the way for what we know now as ‘Made in Italy’ when in 1951, entrepreneur Giovanni Giorgini organised the first ever Italian runway show at the Villa Torrigiani. Driven by the idea to expand Italian fashion beyond national borders, he invited a selected audience of foreign journalists and influential buyers from major American department stores to attend this show.

The event triggered such high interest for Italian high fashion that after several editions Florentine authorities offered a more spacious and prestigious setting to accommodate the growing audience wanting to attend the show – the Sala Bianca at the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti). Over the following thirty years, Florence held the status of the fashion capital only rivalled by Paris, and the Sala Bianca remained the premium runway venue, displaying the finest collections by designers including Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, and the Fontana Sisters.

Florence - Piazzale Michelangelo

Home to the most powerful Italian brands

In the wake of the brand’s recent reinvention, Gucci is now the most hyped brand of the moment yet few people know the brand’s origins. In 1921, Guccio Gucci was working as a porter at the Savoy Hotel in London and was inspired by the luxurious luggage of the rich clientele. He therefore decided to open his first leather goods store in his native city of Florence, which also served as the perfect location to run the production and hire the skilled artisans he needed.

In 1927, Salvatore Ferragamo, who after 13 years spent in the USA could not reconcile with the idea of using industrial machinery to produce shoes, returned to Italy to open his business and workshops in Florence. The most famous and influential women of the century, from Eva Braun to Marilyn Monroe, travelled from all over the world to have their shoes custom made by Mr Ferragamo. Today the Gucci and Ferragamo brands remain to be the key fashion companies operating in the city and, remaining true to their historic roots, keep their production and manufacturing in Florence.

A city should offer ideas, innovation, substance, concepts; these trigger the desires of discovery and research; they surprise you and make you curious; they make you a part of the creative process, not the target.

Linda Loppa, Polimoda Advisor of Strategy and Vision

A bridge between fashion and art, past and future

From the classic Uffizi Gallery and Galleria del Costume, to the contemporary art space La Strozzina, Florence serves as a bridge between dichotomies of creativity and time, contaminating our minds with diverse references, constantly.

It was in Florence that modern fashion was born during the Renaissance, before moving to the French court with Catherine de’ Medici. It was in Florence that the First Italian Fashion Show took place. It’s here that the most important Italian fashion brands have their headquarters and the most relevant international brands have their top quality production. In Florence all the textile trends are born through Pitti Filati, and Pitti Uomo shows all the potential of menswear as ‘the new womenswear’ and consequently the future of womenswear itself. Finally, it’s here where Polimoda is located, the highest ranked Italian Fashion School in the world.

Danilo Venturi, Director of Polimoda

Florence - Renaissance

Fashion and lifestyle trend epicentre

Today Florence remains an influential research space for trends, as every year since 1954, the city hosts Pitti Immagine, a series of events offering an overview on the latest developments in the creative industries.

Pitti Immagine provide a powerful networking platform connecting designers, buyers, suppliers, journalists, industry insiders and professionals. People travel to Florence from all over the world to learn about the future directions in yarn and fabric at Pitti Filati; indulge in the art of gastronomy at Pitti Taste; gain an insight into niche perfumery at Pitti Fragranze; view the fashion accessories for the upcoming season at Modaprima; and scout trends in childrenswear at Pitti Bimbo, womenswear at Pitti Super, and of course menswear at Pitti Uomo.

Florence smells are of blossom and decay. It’s a totemic place; the perfect setting for new rituals of creativity to emerge because it has both a religious and superficial appeal.

Danilo Venturi

Florence - Statue

Directing the future of menswear

In January and June, Florence transforms into a city completely dedicated to fashion during the weeks of Pitti Uomo, which is arguably the most important menswear tradeshow on the circuit. Covering everything from heritage Italian brands to emerging international talents, this is an essential moment to view first-hand experimental design, innovative fabric, cutting-edge concepts and the production techniques of tomorrow.

Throughout the day, the city is consumed by presentations, exhibitions and fashion performances held in historic palazzos and museums, and by night, cocktails and parties are thrown in Villas scattered across the picturesque hills above Florence. Confirming the relevance and prestige of this event, special guests including Paul Smith, Raf Simons, Gosha Rubchinskiy, J.W. Anderson, and OFF-WHITE c/o VIRGIL ABLOH™, have presented their collections during recent editions of Pitti Uomo.
Florence still breathes energy of the human passion for knowledge and creation, and coupled with an injection of young blood, today is the perfect laboratory for the ideas of tomorrow.

Galleries, laboratories, showrooms, venues and hotels stand close together, which fosters a bohemian lifestyle made up of exchanges and interchanges, shared spaces and materials across different fields, and ultimately a kind of working, showing and performing space that a city must be to become a living cultural centre.

Danilo Venturi

Florence - Ponte Vecchio

This article is an excerpt from Polimoda’s long-form publication Almanac, an expanded catalogue where courses and content collide to offer a comprehensive compendium of all things Polimoda. From interviews with cutting edge designers to essays on the future of fashion, we will be featuring a selection of the Almanac’s most interesting visual and reading material on our journal.