I’m a little nervous because today I will become an official trainer of a new generation of Italian leather artisans! Traditionally speaking in Italy most artisans begin their craft because of a family business, and just like my husband, know-how and skill are passed down from generation to generation. However, there is a big shift in this approach recently as children choose not to follow in their parents footsteps, abandoning the family trade for personal passions (….how dare they!!).
E Le Mestiere? And the Crafts?
What happens to the cultural baggage behind knowing an art when you have no one to pass it down to? Does it retire when you do? Modern artisans have decided on a new approach, a collaborative approach based on internships and training a new generation of artisans who CHOOSE to take on the challenge of continuing the excellence of “Made in Italy”.
I will be part of a new National training program headed by the CNA – Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artiginato e Della Piccola e Media Impresa (the National Confederation of Artisans and Small to Medium Companies) to create Italy’s next generation of leather artisans! For the next 6 months we’ll be guiding these students using not only traditional techniques but also new technologies and a massive English and International component…it is all very exciting!
The Carpi Fashion System
Most people outside of Italy have never heard of Carpi, not to be confused with CAPRI, Carpi is pronounced “Car- Pee” and is about 15/20 minutes away from Modena. Although you may not have heard of it, it is one of fashion’s MOST IMPORTANT CITIES! Home to the world’s most prestigious textile, wool, cashmere and luxury fabric producers and brands and also to packaging, refinishing and embroidery companies. It is also where some of the biggest names in the fashion world have their base, not to mention it is BEAUTIFUL with one of Italy’s biggest Piazzas with a Medieval Castle in the middle of the city.
The CNA – Confederation of Artisans supports one of the coolest initiatives I have seen over the last 8 years the Carpi Fashion System. This is a network of all of the small and medium fashion companies in the area with training, exposure to international markets and resources provided for all of them. It is a way to elevate the marketing and management know-how of a small company that was probably built by artisans who do not have the business background that is needed now to succeed in a very dynamic market, but they DO have the product expertise. I’ve worked with the Carpi Fashion System a few times for various showroom and marketing projects and they even have a whole clothing library available if you need to create a magazine spread or catalog.
The other day we were in Carpi visiting friends and I noticed these triangular billboard installations throughout the city. One one side was a mirror that said “Fatti un selfie e postalo su Instagram” – “Take a selfie and put it on Instagram”! Wouldn’t it be nice if EVERY city had a mirror in the Piazza where you could take a selfie? This is obviously a place that understands bloggers and obsessive compulsive Instagrammers!
The other panels described the history of the fashion industry in Carpi it Italian and English, raising awareness of what a massive economic driver “la moda” is for the area. Even though it is often seen as a frivolous passion our shopping habits are the basis for huge industries that comprise thousands of small, family-run companies, and that have been empowering women by raising the level of “craft” to a fine and much requested art. In fact my Carpi friend Davide owns a very important packaging company that now sponsors the Carpi soccer team, he got his start because his mother was an exceptional embroiderer and from their the family business grew!
Finding Work in Fashion in Italy
I get a lot of emails from people who want to move to Italy to pursue their design and fashion careers. Most think of moving to Milan because it is the most obviously associated city for “Moda”, however, I would advise ANYONE who wants to work in fashion to consider moving to Emilia Romagna, the region where I live. There are so many traditions associated with this territory not to mention massive companies such as Yoox, Blumarine,Liu·Jo, Twin Set, Denny Rose, Max Mara, Gaudi, Les Copains, Sergio Rossi, CASADEI, FURLA, Mandarina Duck, Piquardo….and the list goes on and on and on and on!!
There is so much know how and product culture here that promotes excellence in every fashion category from clothing to shoes to small leather goods and bags, if you are truly passionate about working in fashion this is the place! I keep thinking about how maybe so many brands and designers come from Italy because it is a place with immense beauty everywhere that it is hard not to be inspired.
The Blumarine Exhibit at the Palazzo Dei Pio, Carpi
In fact, so ingrained is fashion in Carpi that in the City’s Museum housed inside of the Medievale Castle overlooking one of Italy’s largest Piazza’s you will find a permanent exhibit dedicated to Blumarine! The exhibit was curated by Anna Molinari to highlight the company’s sartorial roots and the high quality of their textiles, embroidered fabrics and use of swarovski crystals. It was very well done and for the 5 euro entrance fee for the Castle plus all exhibits it was also a bargain!
Last spring the exhibit was inaugurated and it showcases the brand’s history and features daring and innovative designs with an interactive retelling of the city’s fashion history. What began with humble roots, importing straw and turning it into hats, has transformed Carpi into the textile mecca it is now.
The exhibit was curated by Anna Molinari to highlight the company’s sartorial roots and the high quality of their textiles, embroidered fabrics and use of swarovski crystals. It was very well done and for the 5 euro entrance fee for the Castle plus all exhibits it was also a bargain!
If you love Italian shopping and fashion do not over look Emilia Romagna the next time you are in Italy, the outlet shopping here is ridiculously good and you may just discover a beautiful city like Carpi that you’d never heard of! I have lived in Modena for 6 years and I still have so much to discover about its surrounding cities. Hopefully with this new collaboration that will change as I have more opporunitites to travel to different companies in the region.
Speaking of crafts that die out when the artisans stop producing…….
At the Carpi exhibit I was introduced to the stunning work in Scagliola, a cheaper painted alternative to marble that the city was very prominent for. When it went “fuori moda” – out of style, this art form almost completely disappeared. I was so moved by the pieces I saw that in this months Monthly Magazine I will be doing a feature with some of the photographs from the exhibit. Feel free to sign up for the Magazine for some artistic inspiration and have a great weekend!