Student Perspectives on Fashion #5

Cross Culturally Dressed Italians

Similar to any traveler, we arrived in Italy with all kinds of expectations. Naturally, a lot of our expectations were in fact created by the image Italy itself, projects to attract tourists. Well we must say, the gelato is amazing, the pasta dishes are fabulous, the Chianti wines are probably too good for our own sake, and of course la bella figura is beyond real. At any time of any day in any type of weather, one will find Italians strutting down the streets of Florence in the most put-together outfit with not one article out of place.

But of course this was expected; one of Italy’s main attractions is their innovative fashion sense and Florence is a major player. The city is the home of the headquarters of Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, and Emilio Pucci. There are many roads like Via de’ Tornabuoni, Via del Parione, and Via Roma where you can find the beautiful high-end fashion stores and the beautiful people of Italy that sometimes look like walking mannequins from those very stores. 

With all the surrounding creative influences and artistic enthusiasm Italy and Florence has – in the sense of fashion, we expected to find an all-Italian consuming culture; or at least an all-European consuming culture. Yet what we found was that worked in with these perfect ensembles, are American brands. Italy, it appears, is similar to America in a sense that there is a very eclectic mix of fashion styles.

Walking along Via de’ Tornabuoni we found Rhode Island’s Tiffany’s, Los Angeles’s Guess, New York’s Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs. Right next to the famous leather market there is a Footlocker. La Rinascente is overflowing with American designed handbags, lingerie, and other apparel. We found all these brands that we thought we had left behind in America. 

What we quickly came to notice is that Italians have taken these American products and enhanced them in their own unique way. You’ll find an Italian man in Timberland boots and Giorgio Armani skinny jeans, an Italian woman in a DKNY dress with a leather bomber jacket, a teenage boy in Nike high-tops, dark skinny jeans and a Burberry scarf. American products are frequently seen on Italians, but it never takes away from the Italian style. It only adds to the attitude or uniqueness each person displays.

So while we came to Italy expecting to be influenced by the fashion culture, what we didn’t expect was to see Italy so influenced by American culture. We were surprised to find that American brands travel so far and are so successful in Europe. Of course the global economy makes it is easy to pull merchandise from other countries, resulting in a dynamic and diverse style. – Which can help sum up our surprising view on Italians’ fashion. It is surprisingly diverse, but still meticulously strung together to generate the Italian bella figura.

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LDM  – Spring 2012
FAS 185 – Anthropology of Fashion and Desirability: Beyond the Catwalk