Laura Mongillo in Florence—
When people think of Italian fashion their mind usually goes straight to Milan and Rome. But it’s actually Florence that is the birthplace of many of Italy’s most famous designers and fashion houses such as Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Emilio Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and the up and coming Patrizia Pepe.
With all these famous names and a rich history in fashion and luxury, the city takes extreme pride in their “Made in Florence” brands and jumps at the chance to display its history and future. For example, Florence is still extremely famous for its leather goods, especially bags and shoes and is the home of Polimoda, one of Italy’s most famous design schools.
So with this in mind, check out these fashion-minded museums that for a small entry fee will satisfy any curiosity you might have about Florentine and Italian fashion.
Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
Piazza Santa Trinita’ 5
Hours: Wed-Mon 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
The €5 entry fee is a measly price to pay for this state-of-the-art museum, covering the life, work and innovation of Salvatore Ferragamo. Whether that €5 ticket will then lead you to buy €800 shoes is a different question…
Even if you’re not obsessed with shoes and fashion, you’ll be drawn into this warm contemporary museum space, housed under the medieval Palazzo Spini Feroni (pictured below). High quality video pieces and iPad-like touch screens display a mix of articles, photos, quotes and sketches.
While Ferragamo is known for his famous shoe designs, the museum points out the innovation involved in his designs, displaying his various patents for shoe components such as the shank or his ingenious inventions such as the cork wedge. You’ll find various stories about his resourcefulness in using raffia, cork, and cellophane during World War II when leather was scarce, as well as his studies on the foot, weight and balance.
The Ferragamo Museum also offers a small movie theater (at the moment showing an Italian film-style commercial for Ferragamo), a temporary exhibition space that usually features studies on the company, artisan crafts, or some of Ferragamo’s famous clients and multiple interactive video components explaining the company’s history and future. My favorite station included real reproductions of Ferragamo designs that you place onto the table’s screen and a description and history immediately pops up, in both English and Italian.
However the most interesting aspects relate to shoemaking itself, an art almost lost to modern technology. A video shows the process of making a red patent leather pump from start to finish, focusing on the handmade quality of the shoes, despite the use of some machinery.
Another room houses three wall-size screens, two of which show the shoemaking process. Another shows a pianist playing a piece that I found both mesmerizing and calming at the same time.
The Ferragamo museum isn’t huge, but it holds little secrets and surprises. I was captivated not only by the company’s history, but also by its high-tech displays. It’s cheapo price, which is donated to a scholarship for young designers, only makes it more irresistible.
Galleria del Costume
Ticket: €7 (includes admission to Boboli Gardens)
This royally fascinating museum is tucked away in the Pitti Palace, the Medici residence-turned-museum that is also home of the world famous Boboli Gardens. In fact, the €7 ticket allows entrance to not only the Boboli Gardens, but also to the Costume Gallery and the Silver and Porcelain museums. So when visiting Boboli, be sure to take an hour out of your garden time to stop into this jewel of a gallery.
The museum houses a collection of clothing from the 16th century onwards, with a slight emphasis on Italian pieces and designers. Special pieces include the funeral clothes of famous Medici ruler Cosimo I and other royals.
The combination of the splendid rooms of the palace with the decadent fragile clothing on display will transport you back in time and allow you to better appreciate the craftsmanship of each piece. Over 6,000 pieces of historic clothing and costumes are found in the archives and are switched out periodically to update the exhibits and protect the clothing from damage.
On its own, the admission price may not be worth it, but as a free addition to your Boboli ticket, its definitely worth a visit!