After our morning crash course in Italian, I was ready to begin our journey by Metro to the Duomo, the cathedral church of Milan, where we would go on a tour of the surrounding city to learn more about the culture and businesses within the Galleria and ones further outside of the Duomo area.
We walked through the Galleria on part of our tour which is a beautiful glass-covered shopping area full of restaurants and clothing stores. It the center of the Galleria, high-end stores such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Versace all had store fronts. Prada actually had two because they bought the location across from their other store front (which I find to be amazing since our tour guide noted that the rent was extremely expensive for these storefronts.) These types of stores are located in malls and shopping areas throughout the United States, so they are widely global companies. They are starting to become more vertically integrated by trying to control all aspects of the production process and supply, but that is not necessarily the case as of now. Their products come from different suppliers for the many different parts of the clothing. I was surprised to see people walking around with a Louis Vuitton shopping bag in one hand and a Prada bag in the other. Many of the Italians take pride in quality clothing. Culturally it was interesting to see how an image of a bull inlaid in tile on the Galleria floor drew people in who would turn their heel on a “particular region” three times for good luck. Our tour guide Diego said many students come here before finals. There was also an image of a crown on the floor which is very meaningful to the Italians. It was interesting to see how their cultural beliefs are integrated throughout every aspect of their lives – even into the malls/gallerias where they shop!
After leaving the Galleria and the area near the marble Duomo and toured more of the street shops further out. Here I could see stores such as Bath and Body Works, Lush, and H&M which are familiar to me and places that I have frequently shopped given their lower price points. In this same area we visited smaller Italian leather shops. We stopped at two stores to learn more about the artisan nature of Italian culture: Gavi and IF Bags.
Gavi is a small leather making shop where the owner, Gavi makes and sells different types of leather backpacks modeled after military bags used by soldiers in wars, as well as wallets, and purses. He is an older gentleman and the bags have a rustic and older Italian feel to them that seems to replicate the style of the leather artist himself. I was fascinated by a backpack he designed where the straps could be adjusted to make the backpack into a purse. This is something I have never seen before. Gavi is almost vertically integrated because he is making and selling his product (at times directly to an end user and sometimes to a client who buys in bulk to sell to their customers). He gets the leather hides that he uses for his bags from an Italian leather supplier where the hides are already stained (lizard, alligator, calf) and then uses templates to create the product. It was interesting to see something handmade like that, especially since he showed us how he uses a template to cut and another machine to make the end of the leather thinner to be glued and folded. He had a huge leather suitcase on the table and two folded metal rods which would be used to give the leather suitcase structure once he put them in (I was told he bent the rod himself to fit the leather bag just right).
After Gavi, we walked a little further to IF Bags which specializes in leather drawstring bags, zipper totes, purses, and wallets. IF Bags seemed to have a younger clientele and more youthful style, yet they also handmade many of their products. I believe that IF is also vertically integrated since they make and sell their own bags (which at times can be specialized according to the customers wishes)
When choosing a drawstring bag you could personalize the design of the bag by choosing the color you wanted, rope drawstring, and the safety square color. However the purses, and zipper totes were already pre-made. She said that about 1 km away they are made and brought here to the storefront to be sold. The woman at IF said that all of their materials are made in Italy, but it was exciting to hear that you could order IF products online! It was a more modern shop than Gavi, but seemed to be just as artisan.
After visiting both the Galleria and shops further away from the Duomo, I realized that both had high quality products that are meant to be treated well by the customer and meant to last a while. The shop IF actually had a note inside the product that said, “I’m Your Choice Take Care of Me,” emphasizing the quality and care expected in Italian shops. Although the Galleria was less vertically integrated than IF and Gavi. IF and Gavi was made on sight or close by and then sold to the customers, while the same can not be said for Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Versace.
I can not wait to learn more about the culture and meet some of the USCS students tomorrow!
|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||