With its national banks teetering on the edge of default and an uncertain economic future, Italy’s financial woes have had a significant impact on state funding for arts education and the availability of student finance for Italian students, creating a challenging landscape for fashion education.


Although Italy is one of the most world’s important fashion markets, home to top global brands and high quality manufacturing, some observers say that Italian fashion education needs a complete rethink before its schools achieve equivalent importance.


“I’m ready to break the wall between fashion design and fashion business courses. We have to be more integrated with one another, and I think the industry should be much closer to us. In general, Italian fashion education is a bit old, I think. Unless you have a very strong vision like at Antwerp or Central Saint Martins, where they want to make designers, then you need to have a new methodology,” says Linda Loppa, who previously led the Royal Academy of Fine Art Antwerp’s fashion department and is now director of strategy at Polimoda, a private institution in Florence.


However, Italy is indisputably one of the world’s foremost centres of high quality manufacturing, especially in leather. As a result, students who have completed their studies there are exposed to craftsmanship and typically graduate with a strong appreciation of the possibilities of skilled manufacturing. In addition to the craftsmanship centres located in the Tuscan hills surrounding Florence and across Italy, students also benefit from increased work experience opportunities available during Milan’s ready-to-wear fashion week, held twice a year, and the Alta Moda businesses in Rome.


The Italian fashion education system is split between Milan, Rome and Florence, with latter the home of the country’s top ranked school, Polimoda, which ranked 9th in both BoF’s BA and MA programme rankings and boasts two historic campuses within the Renaissance city and one of the most significant fashion libraries in the country. Italy has also given rise to one of the world’s most well-known fashion education brands: Istituto Marangoni, a private college that operates campuses in Milan, Florence, Paris, London, Shenzen and Shanghai and educates 4,000 students a year. Istituto Marangoni came 30th and 11th in BoF’s BA and MA rankings respectively.


Classes at the bigger Italian institutions, like Polimoda and Istituto Marangoni, are generally taught in English. However, the smaller Italian institutions continue to teach in Italian. And because the Italian fashion education landscape is dominated by private institutions, the calibre and intensity of Italian curricula varies significantly.


The nation’s famous “Dolce Vita” is also an integral part of the student experience. “In Florence, it’s a dream that you sell. It’s beautiful, the weather is beautiful, the light is excellent, the sun, the moon, everything — it’s not because you can go to the Gucci factory, it’s not so easy to enter, but it’s because you’re in the middle of something,” continues Loppa.


With the exception of Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, the lowest ranked Italian school, coming in 44th and 24th place in BoF’s BA and MA rankings respectively, the careers departments of the Italian schools scored above average, with students praising their access to quality recruiters and effective careers services. Fashion employment opportunities in the region are also comparatively high at an international level, due to the number of major international brands that are headquartered in Italy.


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