Visiting local sites and museums are a unique aspect of LdM’s curriculum. For fashion students, field trips include visiting internationally renowned places such as the Bianca Salo in Palazzo Pitti, the Gucci Museum, the Salvatore Faragamo Museum, and the Leather School ‘Scuola del Cuoio’. The leather school not only highlights the history of the famous Florentine leather production, but also provides visitors access to demonstrations, workspaces, and the collection of beautiful leather fabrics on hand.
The Leather School was established after World War II as a safe haven for orphans by the Monastery of Santa Croce friars, with additional help from two local leather artisan families. Here, young boys were given food and shelter as well as an education through which they could one day put into use to earn a living. The Medici family dedicated the dormitory wing of the monastery to the effort, located in the area of the tanning section at that time.
Today, the Leather School continues to educate students from all around the world in the art and production leather goods, while also fulfilling various commissions, whether from private clients, major companies, or government entities. The school and production are still run by members of the two founding families, the Gori’s and Casini’s, honoring the age old traditions.
A visit to Scuola del Cuoio begins with a brief history of the school and its production, followed with a demonstration by a craftsman engraving a leather coaster with 22 carat gold. The worker creates a beautiful free-hand design in a perfectly delicate, yet incredibly efficient manner, producing a finished product in a matter of minutes. Along the corridor of the main floor, workers and desks line the wall, inviting visitors to see all aspects of the final production. A workroom off the main hallway houses the headquarters of Francesca Gori, daughter of founder Marcello Gori, who has her own line of handbags. Francesca takes pride in her one-of-a-kind custom handbags, finding inspiration in the antique jewelry and local products she discovers during her international travels. Amid the walls lined with photos, bags, and fabrics, is a binder filled with all the handbags she has ever created. This binder ensures that Francesca never repeats a design, authenticating her one-of-a-kind trademark.
Below the main floor of the Leather School, visitors can find current students enrolled in the vocational program. These students come from all around the world, traveling to Florence to learn the leather trade in order to eventually find work or to start their own production. The school offers both three and six month courses, promising to instruct students on every aspect of leather craftsmanship. Those interested in leather production, but unwilling to dedicate a career to it, can take a three or six-hour workshop instead.
While students work, visitors are shown the various luxurious leathers used to make the Scuola del Cuoio’s famous products. As the School’s representative explains the leathers and their origins, visitors are able to touch and feel the fabrics. By being able to touch such expensive leathers from the likes of ostrich, python, and alligator, the visitors’ experience becomes more memorable, in-depth and hands-on.
Florence’s reputation for leather production is world famous. It is very exceptional that the Leather School continues its educational initiative while still producing hand-made goods, especially uncommon among the amount of mass production these days. The family dynamic that powers both the school and company is inspiring and encouraging for those that desire sentiment within their purchases.
For fashion students, field trips to places like the Leather School are essential to enhancing the educational experience. By being exposed to local artisanship, especially the internationally famous Florence leather production, fashion students of all disciplines can appreciate the beauty and importance of hand-crafted products and apparel.
Cassandra Kornhiser attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she studies Mathematics as well as Fashion Design and Business Management. Living and studying in Florence has been one of the best times of her life. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys exploring the city through running, eating, and conversing with locals. She hopes to return to Italy next Spring as well to continue her fashion studies.