Asian Influence in Milan Fashion

Fashion forward Couple in Venice

Fashion forward Couple in Venice

I love the marvelous street fashion from the Asian youth, they dress unapologetically animated and colorful! Many of the friends that I met from language school in Buenos Aires were very nice and welcoming. For the most part my Asian classmates had very specific goals in fashion design and commerce, playful yet very dedicated and focused. Fashion was just a part of who they were and what they lived.

There are at least 144,885 Chinese citizens in Italy today, however these figures do not account for illegal immigration, former Chinese citizens who have acquired Italian nationality, or Italian-born people of Chinese descent. The first Chinese immigrants came to Milan in the 1920’s , after 1979 the real immigration frenzy took place, due to the political opening during the regime of Deng Xiaoping, scores of Chinese came to occupy Milan, up to roughly 10,000 by early year 2000.

2013 was a big year for the Asian influence in high-fashion, Miuccia Prada, showed their Spring collection that was undeniably very Asian, featuring metallic leather socks likened to Japanese tabi socks ( separating the big toe from the rest). The basic colors for this collection were black, off-white, and red with daisies and dandelion-like flowers. Trade magazine Women’s Wear Daily reported that Asia-Pacific regions drove Prada’s growth with sales up by at least 45%.

One of the factors that has contributed to the Asian influence is that luxury companies are producing high quality and distinct craftsmanship, which Asian luxury consumers find desirable. Naturally Asian consumers would prefer to buy products that incorporated images that relate to their culture. Designers like Prada are simply catering to financially healthy markets. For instance, Japan for the most part has not been effected by the recession, this country consumes about 25% of luxury goods at twice the average rate of Americans. As a result of this, there is a demand in Milanese showrooms, seeking to employ Chinese, Korean, and Asian speakers to help merchandisers find new clients in China, Korea, and other parts of Asia. While interning at Showroom Point I witnessed that the majority of active buyers that came in were Asian, seeking to take the newest collections back to their stores and e-commerce sites.

If you’re looking for the Chinese-Italian experience explore Milan’s Chinatown which, stretches from Via Paolo Sarpi, Via Bramante, and Via Canonica, where Asian food, health/ wellness services, and products most authentic to China are said to be the finest in all of Italy. It’s a wonderful thing when fashion can serve as a connection to grow diversity!

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Sacrestia via Conchetta, 20 Milano

Dancing all night at Sacrestia in Milano

Dancing all night at Sacrestia in Milano

I just had a flash back!

How could I have forgotten to write about this place? One of my most precious Milano moments; Friday Nights at Sacrestia Milano!
The epitome of Hipster, Cool, Eclectic, Live, and Uncut. This is where you wanna be to get into the live music scene in Italy.
Promoter DJ Guitarist FLY-GUY Niccolo Bonazzon invited us to a live musical showcase at the club. We danced all night and sang along to songs we could barely understand! The drinks were strong, the band sounded great! Onlookers saw that we were having a great time and decided to join in. It was perfect we each only knew a little bit of each other’s language, but we managed to communicate through smiles and lots of laughter.

We got in a circle and everyone just did something crazy just to do it! There are only a few moments in life where you actually experience that level of freedom, and that was MY MOMENT! I don’t even think I had shoes on (Ha!) Later that night Niccolo came from behind the dj booth and grabbed his guitar, the band was done for the night, we didn’t want the party to stop, so we just made our own music!

If you come to Milano you have to wind up here ….talkin about making a memory. Oh What A Night!

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The Espresso Machine and Other Lessons

Setting up the display in the showroom

Setting up the display in the showroom

 Showrooms in Italy start all meetings by serving clients bottled water, espresso, and tea biscuits on a tray. And no matter who you are, you will be serving clients within 5 minutes of them sitting their purse down or perusing the collection. It’s all apart of the sell! It’s standard business etiquette that is taken very seriously, so you have to pay attention, because as soon as you get that sharp glance, it typically means you’re not moving fast enough.  On my first day, the other intern pulled me aside and showed me how to use the espresso machine and where they kept the extra coffee disks, sugar, and tea. And surely enough if she was busy, I was expected to be on cue!

As unrealistic as it is, neurotic bosses actually think their subordinates can read their minds. My advice: Play into it! Study, watch, and do, but don’t over anticipate major decisions (like assuming she will want pink invitations sent rather than lilac).

Girls will be Girls! Don’t let em’ get to you!

God knows I worked with a number of smart alecky twenty- something’s that thought fashion was fun and would pay their bills temporarily, while they were in search for some billionaire boyfriend. No matter how stupid and shallow some of the conversations may be, just nod and laugh! Don’t take anything too personal, be professional, and choose your friends wisely! Remember, if she gossips to you, she will gossip about you! If they don’t want to include you, fine! Show that you are more than comfortable going to lunch by yourself, and when they finally ask if you would like to eat with them, tell them you’re busy and maybe you will join them another time! It’s okay to be a little b*tchy once in a while in your own way, trust me people will not mess with you if they see they cannot get to you! Why are some people such a pain in the neck, well they are learning you by testing you in little ways. I never joined a sorority, so I did not learn this until I got out in the workforce. But, it didn’t take me long!

In short, if you can’t get along with women, you may want to find  another career outside of Fashion, because wherever you see beautiful clothes, there will always be women involved! Surviving these environments will mean mastering the skill of listening without giving your opinion, people will grow to not only trust you, but love you and will always want you around.

There was one girl who was just difficult and gave me a hard time the first week.  Oh she would mock me, make sarcastic little remarks, and roll her eyes! She thought that because I did not speak fluent Italian that I was just another dumb American here in Italy trying to get a little culture. Sadly enough some people feel that interns may be coming to taking their jobs and its just an attitude you may have to cope with early on until your coworkers feel you out. Everyday she would observe me closely and and in due time she saw that I was there to do my job, so she started speaking to me, and asked if I would like a coffee here and there. I just had to give it a little time.

Influence

Learn who has the most influence in the office besides the boss. Who does the boss go to for advice? Sure you may not see them talking, but they may come in together, take lunch at the same time (code for meet me in the lobby), or you may find out that this person watched their dog while they were out of town. It’s important to treat everyone well, but make sure to definitely create a positive impression with this person! In the showroom, our golden girl worked part- time, although she was second in command, thank God she didn’t flaunt her power.

However, she was big on everyone staying busy and could come up with the most creative assignments (stocking closets, shelving fashion books). So before I could even look bored, I always made sure to go ask her what needed to be done next!

Where’s the Technology?

Italian businesses are not as invested in technology as American companies. It’s just the reality of some establishments. This can be bad and good depending on how you look at things.  So don’t look shocked if you have to share a computer with another intern and there are missing buttons on the keyboard, or that you have to push down on the space bar twice to make a single space. In some establishments that’s just the way it is. Will it take you longer to get your work done? Yes. Will you get frustrated at times and want to scream? Yes. At this time step away, have a healthy snack or make yourself an espresso. And remember, this is an experience that you as well as everyone in your internship program is going through and later on that night you will be laughing about it over a glass of vino. Take it all in Stride!

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Salute to Mahogany

Scenes from the film Mahogany featuring Diana Ross

Scenes from the film Mahogany featuring Diana Ross

Nobody ever talks about the fact that parts of Mahogany were filmed in Rome. My sister kept telling me this and kept telling me this.  I had no idea and it had been years since I had seen this film. So, I decided to put the flick in my neflix que after I got back! So let me give you a glorious recount, the movie was done in 1975 and the stars were Queen of Motown, Diana Ross, smooth Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Perkins, the phenomenal psycho we all know from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho.

Tracy Chambers (Diana Ross) is a young beautiful woman from the projects of Chicago, who dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She has worked her way up to becoming a sales girl at a high end luxury store, now her boyfriend Brian Walker (Billy Dee Williams) is running unsuccessfully for office in the district. He insists Tracy give up her dreams to be his 1st lady. Well, Tracy wasn’t trying to hear all that, so she runs off to Rome to pursue her dreams in fashion. While there, she becomes a muse to a photographer by the name of Sean (Anthony Perkins). Well there is a lot of drama that ensues from Tracy getting caught up in a whirlwind love affair with Sean. After he sees he cannot control her life, he tries to sabotage her career.

Diana working it for the big screen on in ancient Rome

Diana working it for the big screen in Rome

 

One of the best editorial sections of the movie is when Sean has Tracy on some ancient roman steps where SHE IS GIVIN’ IT for at least 3 minutes straight from the black cat suit to the pink afro wig!  Oh she giggles; she spins, strikes these elegant and graceful poses, while indulging us with her come hither bedroom eyes, and proves in that moment that she is indeed the ONE-AND ONLY-MAHAGONY!!!! Y’all just don’t know how many little black girls had this very same dream in the 1970’s, which is why this movie is held so close to our hearts. This was soooo cutting edge, as the first black model, Beverly Johnson did not land on the cover of Vogue until August of 1974 and correct me if I’m wrong we did not see another African American model on a major fashion magazine cover till years later. I SALUTE QUEEN DIANA ROSS, for being a total class act, from back in the day when women knew how to use their femininity! Thank you Barry Gordy (director and producer) for giving US Mahogany!!!!

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Fashion in Milan: A Brief History Lesson

Me performing the age old tradition at

Me performing the age old tradition at Piazza del Duomo

It’s been recorded that way back to the 16th century Milan was known for the craftsmanship of luxury goods and got its name from the English word “milaner”, which later translated to Milan. Milan’s style was inspired by french fashion, but yet and still unlike the french, milanese locals had a very simple style, which was modest in terms of decoration and ornamentation; they put more of an emphasis on the quality of tailoring in combination with rich fabrics and textiles.

Did you know that Venice and Florence were the original fashion capitals, before Milan? During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Florence  was known for “Alta Moda”, which is what the French called their “haute couture“. By the time the 70’s rolled around Milanese designs had found a successful balance of simple elegance, and became more popular and affordable than Florence and Parisian designs and became one of the main capitals for ready-to-wear female and male fashion. The first Fashion Week was established in 1979, scheduled for Spring and Fall. Shortly after, Milan started to become internationally successful and famous due to the big fashion boom from designers we admire still to this day such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Georgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and a host of other celebrated designers.

In 2009, Milan was announced as the “fashion capital of the world” by the Global Language Monitor, although this victory was shortly lived, this title put Milan on the map, by 2010 Milan dropped down to  sixth place, as of 2011 it shot back up to fourth place and as of 2012 came in at 8th place (8 spots up from Florence at number 16).

The city’s most important shopping streets and districts include Piazza del Duomo, as you can see me above spinning on my heel over the bull’s genitals for good luck, prosperity, and life-long shopping!The tradition says that if a person places their right heel on the bull’s genitals (from Turin Coat of Arms) and turns him or herself three times, this will bring good luck. I think I spun about 10 times?!

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What to Wear While Interning in Milan

The Look- Milan Interns courtesy of Refinery 29

The Look- Milan Interns courtesy of Refinery 29

 Interning in Milano, I thought I would  have to chip into the savings to have the best wardrobe in the building! Not so, first of all understand this, most people from Milan and Italy in general have seen every upscale designer there is and are quite familiar with what is on trend. So I saved myself the trouble, there is no impressing these people! In fashion there is a lot of moving around, so fitted slacks or dark jeans with a blazer and your choice of ballet slippers or wedge heel is quite acceptable. So I went out and snagged the cutest pair of cream colored Nike Blazers on sale and did a very casual, yet professional everyday work look. Check out my pict!

Me in Florence wearing my "flexible" intern look

Me in Florence wearing my “flexible” intern look

While here I’ve been noticing lots of sheer tops , exposing bra straps, tummies, backs, and cleavage. I personally have never been a fan of a lot of skin in the work place, but here the women wear this look bold and unapologetically, even well past 40! I came with an arsenal of casual dresses with sandals, pieces I could simply dress up or dress down. The key is having basics that you can play with!

Women here for the most part wear little to no make-up especially in the summer months. So I just went with it, adding some light coverage to disguise a few blemishes and a little mascara or eyeliner to make the eyes pop. As far as the lips, tired of nudes? You can pull a bold red, they appreciate that sort of a thing here! The key is watch what everyone else is wearing and wear something comparable, if you can take an old classic and put a new spin to it EVEN BETTER! In Milan showrooms, most of the working fashionistas are on a tight budget, so people can appreciate when you pull something  together that’s “shabby yet chic”.  

Pearls with a fitted grey t-shirt anyone? 

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Old School Hip Hop and Rn’B at Deseo Lounge

A Mid-Summer's Night at Deseo's Lounge

A Mid-Summer’s Night at Deseo’s Lounge

This lounge was a real treat for us, because it was one of the few places we found that played old school RnB , Hip Hop– it’s a haven for young professionals that come here after work to meet up with friends. The apperitivo here was pretty good and reasonably priced, no more than about 8 or 10 euros; there was a variety of snacks including fresh fruit, pizza, meatballs, and salad.

We were worried that we would not get seating, because this place is a real hot spot. Luckily there were other people there who knew my friends, so they put two tables together for us. White leather seats, glass tables, I felt like I was in Miami for a moment, definitely a contemporary American influence.

I enjoyed being here on a Friday evening, Milano is expensive, since the subway stops running at midnight; this was a nice middle ground from a club. You can go back on the train to avoid paying cab fare. Although, this spot is not metro accessible you have to take about a 10 to 15 minute walk from Cardusio or Grand Centrale Station. But the beauty of it is that there did not appear to be a lot of other places quite like this, and because of its exclusive/somewhat excluded location Deseo attracts a very sensible crowd.

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