Insider Fashion Experience: Florence Italy

Insider Fashion Experience: Florence Italy

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Florence, Italy

Fashion Insider: Florence Italy Experience


(The incredible view from hiking up to the Piazzale Michelangelo)

Hi, I'm Haley, one of three interns who received a year scholarship from Mentors to spend a year with Sapahn. This internship opportunity also allowed me a once in a life time opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy over the summer. After doing a lot of research on cities to study abroad in, I finally chose Florence. I chose this city because of the art and history that runs through the walls and streets of Florence.

Most importantly, I chose it because it’s home to huge fashion designers such as Guccio Gucci (founder of Gucci), Emilio Pucci, Ermanno Scervino, and many others. My love for fashion and art is actually unreal. These are two of my biggest passions that continually drive me to achieve my goals. This is ultimately why I chose to major in Textile Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



When I finally knew I was going to study in Florence, I started looking into classes. I looked for a class that interested me and one that included my number one passion, fashion! I glanced over classes multiple times and ultimately it was tough to decide which class I wanted to take, they all sounded so fun! I finally found one that really sparked my interest, the class was Visual Merchandise and Display.



Unveiling Florence: Insider Fashion Experience
(Le Bon Marche, 3 level department store in Paris)


During this three week course, I learned a lot of super fun and interesting things, including that I had been to the very first department store in the world.. and I had no idea!  Now, rewind two weeks earlier when I was in Paris traveling before my program. While in Paris one day, I stepped foot in a ginormous department store. This store has multiple levels and had quite the selection of highly luxurious brands. Kenzo, Celine, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the brands that I saw! I walked around the store and went on different levels but I didn’t really buy anything because everything was pretty expensive. Fast forward two weeks and I had come to find out that this was the world’s FIRST department store!

 One day we were casually watching a movie over the making of this building and how it had become to be famous. I was in shock that I had just been there and didn’t even know it until I was in Florence –how CRAZY is that!!! La Bon Marche, the first department store, was founded in 1838. The movie that we watched about this department store was about the founder, Aristide Boucicaut, and how he opened up a new door to the Fashion Industry today.

Aristide was famous for his marketing innovations. He created the idea of keeping lights on in window displays throughout the night. By keeping the lights on at night, this would attract potential customers to the window where they may see something they want to get their hands on. His strategy came to be known across the world. Now, it’s hard to find a store that doesn’t have a light on in the window at night.




(The very first Gucci store located on Via Vigna Nuova. This store was founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci)


There was another day in which we talked about all of the famous Italian fashion designers. We were on the topic of Guccio Gucci and how his brand ‘Gucci’ had evolved. Later that day, I was walking home and decided to step foot in a Gucci store a few doors down from my apartment. I glanced through the store and was getting ready to leave when I was stopped by one of the workers.

The worker was quite friendly and asked me a few questions, it was a casual conversation. He then goes, “The reason we love this Gucci store so much is that it was the first one,” I thought I had misheard him because I was in disbelief. As soon as I got out of the store I immediately pulled out my phone, looked up the first Gucci store and SURE ENOUGH!!! My excitement was unreal you guys. The first ever Gucci store was founded in 1921 on Via Vigna Nuova. The same street my apartment was on.




(Gucci Gardens - The gold and blue dress is a map of France. The orange jacket and zebra print jacket were apart of an animal inspired collection)


A few days later our teacher took us to visit the Gucci Garden. While touring the Garden we were told that Guccio didn’t want to call it a museum because it didn’t fit his brand. Gucci is a very exotic brand composed of butterflies, tigers, bees and other animals. He designed this setup so everyone would feel as if they were a part of this brand when they were walking around looking at different masterpieces he designed. This was probably one of my favorite things and If you have a few hours to spare, definitely look into strolling through the ‘Garden’! The music and surroundings make you feel as if you are in a Gucci movie.  


 (Left: a few of the very first suitcases which were designed by Gucci. Right: a notebook containing original rough drafts of what Gucci had imagined for his brand and different apparel items.)





(Fly was a 15 minute walk from my apartment, this is where I had my classes every day)


The class that I took while I was in Florence was located in FLY (Fashion Loves You). FLY is a store that sells vintage clothing and student work! One of our big projects that we were asked to do for this class was to redesign the setup of FLY. From bare windows and walls, my whole class got together and broke off into groups of how we were going to attack this challenge. We ended up creating a look that was perfect for the summer time. It included a runway table of bathing suits and the mannequins screamed major beach vibes. Once we were finished, the whole class got graded by the teacher. Our teacher absolutely loved what we had done and she said she was very impressed.


(The interior of Fly. When we redesigned this store we had a lot of wall space, mannequins and props to work with) 


Now, fast forward three weeks after we had learned about windows, space, harmony and how colors and lighting all work together. We had a class period solely dedicated to revamping the store again. The teacher wanted to see everyone apply what they had learned in a hands-on experience. 

When my class redesigned the store this time, we were much more organized and strategic about how and where we placed certain items. For the window display, we used a flying technique to hang different objects and create a story in the window. I helped with the wall layouts and inspected where more details needed to be emphasized.

This time around, it took us a lot less time and it looked so much better than where we had started a couple weeks earlier. Our teacher was in shock when she had seen what we had done, she was very impressed that we took all of the knowledge we had learned in the past two weeks and applied it as best as we could on a real-life scenario.




(The setup of our food styling class)


There was another class period in which we took a food styling class. Our teacher wanted to get us out of the classroom and working in a different environment. She had told us that our creative thinking behind fashion could be applied in different ways. One day we all headed over to the hospitality department which was a 10-minute walk from our classroom. When we arrived we were greeted by a super nice young gentleman who would be our instructor for the day. He passed around aprons and we really looked like we knew what we were doing then! 


His lesson was over ‘The art of arranging food so that it looks tasty, fresh & good in photography’. He used cheesecake, strawberries, kiwi, cherries, cocoa crumble and fresh greens to create a dish called “Summer Harvest”. We watched and learned as he gave us tips and tricks when it comes to styling food on a plate. He had taught us that every intentional adjustment that one makes to a dish is called styling. This ties into fashion because every little adjustment made on a garment is very similar in the way that it can change the whole look, or style of that piece.


(Our chef that was creating his masterpiece shown on the right) 


 After he was done with his tutorial we all got to create a dish that was redesigning what he had made. We could use any of the ingredients and do whatever we wanted in just 20 minutes. We had to group up so I went with a few of my friends that I sit by in class every day. We honestly didn’t have a plan but once we started, we all had different creative ideas that really helped this project turn out to be a success.


This food styling class had taught me that working with other people is super helpful. When you have multiple creative thinkers throwing out ideas, it actually turns out being more unique than with just one creative thinker. This lesson taught me to pay more attention to others and listen to what people may have to say. We can all make amazing things happen as individuals but we can make incredible things happen as a group.  


After we had created our plate, the groups were all judged by our chef instructor. My group was overjoyed with happiness because our instructor told us that ours was one of the best. The instructor had said that we could use minor improvements but, we had the best balance, space and well thought out style.



(left: my groups final food styling masterpiece. right: everyones food plating together) 


These past three weeks of studying in Florence, I’ve learned far more than I would have in a semester in college and that’s what made this experience so worth it! The culture, class, and environment all played a roll on everything I took away from this experience. Every minute I was in Florence, I took every opportunity that I could grasp my hands on. I built a relationship with so many of my fellow classmates, as well as my down to earth teacher.

I left Florence feeling far more inspired, mindful and completely overflowing with happiness. My trip abroad has reassured me that I am in the right field of study and exactly where I need to be in life. 

Taking that huge leap of faith towards the unknown was exactly what I needed in my life. I hope that you all challenge yourself to do the same, see what this beautiful world has to offer for you because there is SO much out there.