A New Kind of Classroom

Kelly Allen photoWritten by: Kelly Allen
LdM Fall 2013 Fashion Merchandising major

 

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Before this semester, I never would have believed that location could have such an impact on my ability to learn. I went through grade school in Colorado and now attend college in Texas, but this transition was seamless. My grades didn’t suddenly become affected by the humidity in the South or by being so far away from anything resembling a mountain. A classroom seemed to be a constant: the same no matter where it was on the map.

For this reason, I was completely taken by surprise when I began studying at LdM in Florence. It only took one morning walking to class to admit that my surroundings changed everything. It’s not just passing by the plethora of high-end luxury designer stores on the way to school, it’s the fact that I am walking around in the city where these iconic brands began. On a walking tour with my History of Italian Fashion professor, he pointed out store after store that began in Italy. We just don’t have the ability to do that in the U.S. – we are seriously lacking when it comes to history. Italy’s history, on the other hand, is rich. Learning about how the most notorious names came from humble beginnings rooted in a love for high quality craftsmanship and turned into such successful, international companies gives me a new appreciation for their brands. I know I never would have learned to be so impressed by a designer brand had I been walking with my professor through Fort Worth, Texas…

Not only did my favorite fashion designers grow up here, my professors did as well. They remember when certain design houses were first making their mark on the world, when everyone was completely enamored by a new designer. They take brand names that seem fantasy-like in the U.S. and help us translate them into something concrete, something real. Part of this is achieved during lectures inside the classroom, but the experience is completed when our professors take us out into Florence. When my class toured the Gucci museum, I was shocked by my reaction to the exhibit. I was completely and utterly captivated by the brand – a feeling I had never expressed toward Gucci in the past. Later I decided Gucci was my new favorite brand and would occupy a lot of space on my Christmas list, much to the dismay of my parents’ wallets…

Had I learned about Italian fashion in a classroom in Texas, I would have been presented with the same information: a combination of lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and class discussions. So what makes this semester different? It’s Florence. It’s the fact that my professors teach my class about the history of ‘Made in Italy’ and then take us to visit the headquarters of fashion houses that were responsible for creating this standard of quality. They help me personalize the history of fashion, a history that took place here. I can only imagine how much would be lacking in my understanding of fashion history had I not spent the semester here in Florence. In this classroom, my learning is supplemented by experience. This classroom is different.