We’re Moving!

8 12 2009

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Let the Games Begin

6 01 2009

I have always been the type of person to live fast, crunching as much as possible into the tiniest amount of time I can. I was one of those little girls who wanted to be grown up by age 4, and so everything had to come early- I wanted homework in pre-school, I wanted braces in 1st grade, (reality- 1st Apple computer: 2nd grade, 1st Vogue subscription: 3rd grade), I wanted a job by 4th grade, I wanted to drive by 7th grade, and I wanted boys… well, early. I graduated early, left home early, and motored through a dual-degree in college in less than four years. Then came the career, and just like a speed boat pulling in to the marina, the throttle was cut and I had a chance to really take a look around.

I had been working on said career for about 4 lackluster years when I realized that I had slipped into some pre-ordained schedule of life, and while I envied most of my friends for being content with that, it wasn’t something I could see for myself.

  • Step 1: College
  • Step 2: Get started on Job –> Career
  • Step 3: Acquire car & apartment*
  • Step 4: Take a couple of fun weekend trips*
  • Step 5: Marriage
  • Step 6: Acquire house
  • Step 7: Baby/Babies
  • Step 8: Acquire bigger house & more cars, possibly mini-van/SUV
  • Step 9: Send offspring to college
  • Step 10: Retire
  • Step 11: Take fun trips abroad, if possible*
  • Step 12: Sell house, acquire apartment*
  • Step 13: Grandchildren*
  • Step 14: Play bridge & grow geraniums

* indicates flexibility in order

I got through to about Step 4, and then decided that I would do something different, and tried to figure out what I would spend my life doing for free, if that were possible, and where. I sold 90% of my worldly possessions and packed the rest into storage, resigned from my job, and headed to Italy for grad school and a pace of life that is never fast (unless driving is involved), where nothing is done early. It has been a much-needed jolt to my system! I have spent the past two years and two months living, working and studying in Milan.

My goal was to get a masters degree in interior design and historic restoration, and a double in business innovation, with the idea that I could start my own business reviving old houses, bringing out the historic qualities that make them special, while modernizing the interiors, and in the processes helping to make them more environmentally friendly. That plan was not to be. Two weeks after moving overseas, I was shocked when my university canceled the program. Welcome to Italy!

Being that fast-paced, assertive American girl, I wrote a formal letter to the Department Head, proclaiming the injustice of the cancellation after 50 of us had moved internationally to participate weeks earlier. I even had a meeting with him in which I presented three potential plans through which we could find a way to continue the program. He and his assistant stared at me with a look that seemed equally surprised and irritated. Oops. These things just aren’t done.

I still had housing covered for one year, and wasn’t ready to move back home defeated, so I did some soul-searching, and realized that EVERYTHING I had in my little room in Milan (books, magazines, blog subscriptions, etc) was about fashion, luxury, photography, designers, writers, sustainability, and politics… and all things digital. This was a big wake up call. I have a background in design and public policy (that’s sustainability, economics & politics), I am completely obsessed with the internet (though I would say that my attachment to my camera was only eclipsed by my attachment to my laptop about 4 years ago), and I love fashion- from the dream, down to the creative and business processes. I love the idea of selling a dream! I’ve always been a bit advocate of “do professionally what you would do for free” and never realized that I was missing the cues.

I went back to my original purpose for being in Italy, and substituted “fashion brands” for “houses.” That felt right.

I had to get a foot in the door in the fashion industry, to really understand if my interests were valid and my talents could be something of value to the industry. While my best friend from childhood arrived to the Milan fashion shows in the back of a Mercedes to do her buying work, I arrived on a 1969 red Bianci Milano Classico bicycle (now stolen, naturally) and my Canon Rebel (now also stolen- remember to reinforce your window locks when renting an apartment in Italy!).

I took pictures; I asked questions; I befriended PR girls, bouncers, young financial managers, merchandisers, trendforecasters, journalists, photographers and bloggers- you name it. The real point of confirmation came during Berlin Fashion Week in 2007 when I attended the Premium Symposium on Ethical Fashion.

Melissa Dryer changing my life

Led by Melissa Drier of WWD, a panel of fashion professionals talked about the impacts of the fashion and textiles industry on the environment, emerging economies, working conditions- basically all the issues I have cared about in the past as an urban designer in sustainable development.  I’m sure this woman doesn’t have any idea the impact she had on my life. I should send her a note.

Anyway, this symposium sealed the deal for me- the fashion industry was not so fickle and silly as I had feared (well, not all of it!), and one actually could make a BIG difference in the lives of countless people by making smart decisions, both ethically and economically.

What most impressed me was the fact that good marketing can create a movement. A movement can change the world. And, most importantly, in the worlds of fashion and luxury, where marketing has always been so powerful, a fear of technology has left some significant room for improvement… and that is precisely what I want to do. Naive? Maybe, but let’s see what the future brings.

After searching for months for a program that would help me to understand the entire luxury and fashion business (not just marketing, but supply-chain and strategy), a program at SDA Bocconi in Milan came to my attention. This was MAFED; a MBA-style business degree in Fashion, Experience & Design Management. I decided that the business + marketing degree focusing in “symbol-intensive” industries was just right, so I applied and ended up staying for 14 months at SDA Bocconi while continuing to work on all things digital.

So, what I’m going to try to do here is to re-create the last two years by weaving together some travel and class notes I took, and comment on the things I’ve noticed since then, based on my studies and interests. (This is my blog-version of Evernote, in other words!) Besides, there is no way I can move all of those binders of notes back over the Atlantic anyway, and it seems appropriate to share the knowledge I’ve acquired here with anyone who might be interested in fashion, luxury, technology, marketing, or Italy.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it!