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Polimoda Fashion Show 2017
Polimoda Fashion Show 2017Courtesy of Polimoda

How to get a place at Italy’s best fashion school

Danilo Venturi – the dean of Polimoda – gives us a lesson in getting a good fashion education

When you think about Italian fashion you’d probably go straight to Milan – home of Prada, Versace and Valentino. But what about Florence? Sure, there’s Pitti, but the birthplace of Renaissance and Gucci gets less credit than it deserves for being a hub of creative talent. Polimoda – the fashion school blending heritage, research, and creativity – is also part of its history. Since 1986, its provided experience-based teaching to whole generations of aspiring designers, stylists, art directors and other industry insiders – it’s ranked by Business of Fashion as the number one fashion school in Italy (ninth globally). Danilo Venturi, now dean of the school, was one such student himself – so who better to ask what it takes to make it in the fashion industry, and how Polimoda prepares its students to do so?

Like the school itself, Venturi has had a multifaceted approach to his career – from studying politics to specialising in art direction and strategic fashion branding. From this, he has gone on to work with both online and concept stores, as well as luxury lingerie brands like La Perla – all while DJ-ing on the side. His music career has been just as extensive as his fashion one, starting out in the early 90s; the fresh approach this perspective lends to his teaching earning him the title of “rock ‘n’ roll dean” from his students.

Venturi’s view is that “everything is interconnected”, and his interdisciplinary nature is a reflection of fashion in itself. “Fashion is a complete discipline that includes human, social and industrial aspects,” he teaches – making sure that Polimoda adapts to these changing conditions while he is at the helm. Polimoda is about working past fashion stereotypes, teaching the value of hard graft and the reality of working in the industry. “To study fashion,” Venturi observes, “means to get to know yourself and others: to understand how the world works and, possibly, to be able to say how the world should be.” Ultimately, “Fashion is about change, and change needs educated leaders” – so here’s how to learn from them.

How would you describe what Polimoda is?

Danilo Venturi: Polimoda is a fashion school that provides undergraduate, postgraduate and short courses in four areas: Fashion Design, Fashion Business, Art Direction and Design Management. Polimoda is located in Florence, has a visionary character and a strong connection with the industry, which ultimately makes this school a unique experience for those who attend it.

How would somebody go about getting into Polimoda? What do you look for?

Danilo Venturi: We try to orient each student to the appropriate course by understanding what the student can excel in. Call it ‘talent’ or at least ‘a talent’, backed with a certain amount of attitude and determination. On the other hand, attitude and determination without any talent would bring only to glamour and stardom, which is the opposite of what Polimoda is about.

How do you nurture new talents?

Danilo Venturi: First, we give them hard skills, a specific know-how, hands-on. Second, we give them soft skills, they have to understand who they are and ‘become what they are’. Third, there is an internship, a competition or an incubation program. At some point, they must accept a challenge and work very hard to succeed.

Fashion can seem like an intimidating industry to break into – what’s the best advice for someone who wants to study and work in fashion?

Danilo Venturi: What we saw in The Devil Wears Prada is all true, but now fashion is undergoing a mutation – what we need is humanity, empathy, fresh ideas and collaboration. Therefore my advice is: be yourself, work hard, respect others, go straight on your way and never compromise your integrity. If you can add value, you will be recognised.

“My advice is: be yourself, work hard, respect others, go straight on your way and never compromise your integrity. If you can add value, you will be recognised” – Danilo Venturi

What’s it like teaching something as subjective and ever-changing as fashion?

Danilo Venturi: You cannot take the subjective side of fashion away, otherwise you will end up also eliminating the clash of visions, passion and magic. If we remove subjectivity in the creation of a dress as well as in shaping a brand identity, what you get is only a sad product. When you teach, you are able to give your opinion beyond facts, be open to debate and simply, be honest.

You’ve also been a DJ before, how the worlds of fashion and music crossover?

Danilo Venturi: Well, the creative process is the same, whether it’s about authorship or sampling. Then, in both fields, you have a quotient of styling and performance. It’s not by chance that some musicians became icons thanks to their ability to interpret the aesthetics of their time. But the strongest link is intangible and sensory: when an album or a collection gives you goosebumps…

What’s the most important lesson to learn in fashion?

Danilo Venturi: Fashion is the most important thing and also the most useless. We think we are at the centre of the world but then, when we fly over a city, we all look like ants. Fashion is about the human race, which has not changed since the primitive ages and ancient mythology. Maybe more than ants we are well-dressed monkeys who just want to survive and reproduce ourselves.