One day before we have to face our last day in Italy. Today, we paid a final visit to Universita Cattolica and met our Italian friends for the last time. We ended the day with a visit to the Armani Museum, ample shopping, and eating pizza for what seems like at least the 10th time. I’m really not sure if I’ll ever be able to eat pizza in the states again. Of course, since we are in the fashion capital of the world, today, we learned a great deal about fashion, luxury, and sustainability from a presentation at Universita Cattolica: lessons I would never have the opportunity to learn in the United States.
I found multiple aspects of this presentation interesting, especially the logic behind our attraction to fast fashion brands. For example, the presentation began with the increasing competition of fast-fashion brands such as Zara and H and M. I never took the time to understand how each brand and approach fit into the fashion industry and compete with one another. Designer brands produce the clothing that we observe on the catwalks. However, fast fashion often imitates these designs and charges cheaper prices for lower quality. The designer brands dedicate two years worth of time and effort into producing their collection for the fashion shows. Despite all of this, why are we so attracted to fast fashion brands? These brands produce scarce quantities of their products. Thus, we rush to buy clothes because we believe that the clothes will run out due to high demand. Fast fashion takes advantage of this because it reduces their risk especially dealing with excessive inventory. Fast fashion brands thrive on our desire for cheap prices and fear of limited supply.
Another aspect of the presentation that I found most interesting was the sustainability of the fashion industry. I discovered that even though I absolutely love products with 100 percent cotton, this is detrimental to the environment. Pesticides and chemicals flood cotton and are responsible for the deaths of many cotton farmers. For example, in India, approximately 40,000 field workers died in accidents. In addition to cotton, the wastage of water destroys the environment even further. One pair of jeans consumes 10,00 liters of water. I cannot even begin to imagine how much water all my pairs of jeans combined have drained! Patagonia has become one of the leading brands in sustainability and many other companies look to becoming just as environmentally friendly. Many companies aiming for sustainability sincerely follow the guidelines set by the UN and endorse the triple bottom line approach: profit, planet, and people. In all honesty, I did not realize the extent to which clothing production harms the environment. In addition, I failed to give companies credit for assuming the responsibility for their harm and working towards a higher level of sustainability.
In addition to fashion, I believe today presented a golden opportunity to explore the cultural differences between the college students in American and college students in Italy. When we interacted with the students, I did not notice any significant cultural differences that posed any issues in communication. In fact, we very much had similar interests including majors, hobbies, and interest in nightlife. One major difference that I did notice was that while Pitt offers a variety of division one sports, universities in Italy do not offer sports. In addition, our sports interests are slightly different. Both college students in America and Italy are interested in football, however, completely different sports. Italian culture embodies interest in what Americans call “soccer” while college students from the states enjoy American football games. Thus, we enjoyed learning about each others’ sports in our conversations, however, it limited our discussion regarding teams we support. I truly appreciate how the college students handled “foreigners.” They treated us just as they would any other student on campus. Our conversations revolved around learning a lot about each others’ respective cultures, education, and lifestyles. They were kind to us and helped us learn what aspects of Italy they appreciate the most. There was never any awkwardness and thus we felt comfortable opening up to each other.
Many lifestyle differences exist between us and the college students in Italy. For example, the Italian college students do not usually live in dorms. Instead, they either live at home or in apartments. In the US, many students leave their homes to attend a university and live in dorms at least for the first few years. In general, living differs here from the states because property is generally passed down through heritance and frequently renting and moving homes is not common. A major difference in their economy is their cash-based approach. I definitely miss separate checks at restaurants and pulling out my debit card for lower prices. A major difference in the government of Italy is a parliamentary republic with a prime minister while America is a federal republic with a president who can only serve up to two terms. Individuals in both the university and on the streets could immediately recognize that we came from America and treated us with respect and kindness. They tried to help us experience Italy to the fullest whether it be ordering the best dish at a restaurant, giving us directions, or explaining tourist attractions. I do believe that Italians have stereotypes for Americans such as arrogance and little desire to learn about cultures and countries internationally. However, during my time here, not a single Italian citizen made me feel isolated or different. I have much love and appreciation for the generosity and kindness that I received from each Italian.
Tomorrow is the final day to enjoy our final adventures and explorations of fashion. The presentation and interaction with university students today provided me with a taste of culture and broad perspective of the fashion industry. As our trip comes to an end, I am certain that I will forever remember how both the culture and fashion has shaped my perspective and understanding of life. Until next time- Ciao!