Each Spring at the ISI (Institute for International Studies) in Florence, the role of the city as a world capital for menswear is highlighted. A course dedicated solely to writing and blogging about fashion is offered for undergraduates from many American schools and includes a unique scholarly visit to the Pitti Uomo menswear trade show held at the city’s Fortezza da Basso in June.
The course originated in the mind of retired Professor Emeritus Mark Bernheim. A former Fulbright grantee and frequent visitor to Florence, Bernheim for many summers brought groups of students to Italy for cultural exposure. He included fashion education in their time in order to take advantage of the special role Florence plays in promoting the Italian style and design sense. He invited winners from the TV reality hit “Project Runway” to visit and speak with the students about the importance of having a solid and meaningful vision of clothes and accessories, and being able to transmit through vivid language the meaning of design.
Upon retirement from the classroom, he affiliated with ISI, a leading Consortium of universities based in historic Palazzo Rucellai in the center of the fashion world on Via della Vigna Nuova in the heart of stylish Florence. Each May-June select seminars read and analyze features, columns, and interviews from sources such as the NY Times. They learn how to write in a professional manner that presents and interprets the clothes for an active audience.
The groups are composed of majors from English, Creative Writing, Communications, Marketing, and the Arts. The classes are held in English and give transferrable approved credits. It has become a part of the fashion scene in the city with its concentration not on making designs but on mastering communications about what design means.
Students learn first hand about Italian Style and creative genius. They interact at the Pitti Uomo show with some of the thousands of fashion leaders attending and have the chance to visit ateliers and discuss menswear with designers, stylists, p.r. and communications marketers.
Many alumni of the class have found the course and the potential for interning at “Florence News” a good step ahead in career planning as well as giving a unique understanding of the importance fashion and design play in the life and prosperity of Florence.