Armani, Brera, & Coffee

On our way to the first ever Starbucks in Italy, I took the time to learn how to count to one thousand in Italian. Nolan was very patient, but by the time we stepped off the metro, I had it down pat (thanks Nolan!).

Once in the Starbucks, which curiously had an unfamiliar logo, I was first shocked at the size and style of the building itself. Housed in what used to be a post office and tiled from the same marble as the duomo, the luxury roastery was nothing like I would have expected. Right in the center was the actual machine responsible for roasting the coffee beans daily and shipping them through a network of tubing to other parts of the store. Our tour guide joked that the tubes were just like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and therefore she was an Oompa Loompa. Besides an interesting tour, we got to taste a Guatemalan coffee and learned how the surroundings of a growing coffee plant affect the flavors of good coffees. As a coffee aficionado, I particularly loved to discover that coffee gains more flavor tones as it cools – something I’ll keep in mind the next time I try a new blend.

Since we’ve focused so much on sustainability with fashion, I asked about how the same principles applied to the coffee industry and the Starbucks. Apparently, since Italians already separate all of their household trash into compost, recycling, and other waste, the Starbucks didn’t have to change much. They compost most of their waste and it is then turned into organic soil that the community can collect in exchange for their own compost. I found this entire system very smart since it not only provides a clean means of reducing waste, but it also incentivizes people by providing them immediate rewards for the typically drawn-out process of composting. I was also impressed by the incredibly efficient dynamic of the business itself. After hearing that they advertised simply by planting palm trees in a sponsored garden a year before opening, I was already impressed by the subtle marketing techniques that Starbucks used upon entering a picky and tricky consumer base in Italy. I was further impressed, however, as I learned that to compete with the traditions and prejudices of the Italians, the roastery became a luxury-style coffee shop with constantly cycling rare blends in order to attract the coffee connoisseurs of this country.

Leaving Starbucks, I enjoyed the beautiful weather and wandered to the gardens of Castello Sforzesco, where I could already see the preparations for this weekend’s veteran festival. I even watched a group of these veterans as they met and then sang together under an echoing archway. I then passed through the pretty streets of Brera and ate my favorite lunch so far at a pizzeria at the center of the city.

We then gathered and went to the Armani Museum. I must admit that I was a bit judgemental before. I failed to see the engineering behind fashion. I was at first curious to look at trends in the frontiers of fashion, but as our guide shared stories of Armani’s process and history, I realized that his creative outlet can actually relate to engineering as well as it does to art. He always says that he cannot create since he is restricted by practicality. For example, he cannot add a third sleeve or ignore the neckline without failing to make clothing. In the same way, engineers are bound by the physical world and the technologies at our disposal. Both Armani and an engineer, however, can then apply creativity to come up with unique solutions that can be better than past attempts, or else serve as lessons for the future.

Having learned this valuable lesson, I hope to be more open to things that at first may not seem to relate to my intended career. With this new mindset, I look forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Fino a domani!


P.S. I managed to fix my pictures on one of the past two posts. For some reason I’m still experiencing technical difficulties editing the others so I’ll be posting like this, with minimal photo editing (assuming I can upload them at all) until I get a chance to sit down and work through all the issues. Thanks for being patient!

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