Monday, August 02, 2010
Buonasera Firenze!Color Happy: Althea Harper and Nick Verreos in Florence Italy Two weeks ago I flew--along with my partner David Paul---to Europe. First stop: Florence Italy: Well, we actually flew from LA to Rome and took a train to Florence. We had purchased--or so we thought--tickets on the "Fast Train", Eurostar, but we knew something was "not smelling right" when we noticed THREE HOURS had passed and we were still NOT THERE! A "dead giveaway" should have also been the fact that there was NO AIR CONDITIONING for an hour: Yes kids, we got on the WRONG train! Gucci Not Happy: Nick Verreos arriving at the Florence Santa Maria Novella Station We somehow boarded the Regionale, the "regional" let's just say more "pedestrian" train which instead of the nonstop 1 1/2 hr Eurostar to Florence, takes you through a FOUR HOUR twenty-stops-later way! Well, needless to say, we had been traveling for about 24 hours when we FINALLY arrived at our destination. I was invited (for the second year in a row!) by Miami University of Ohio to give my lecture on fashion and Project Runway to the English and Journalism students of their Summer Study Program in Florence. As a "special treat", another Project Runway Alumn was also invited: designer Althea Harper, Finalist from Season 6. She had not arrived yet because of travel problems (who would have thunk it!?). When we finally got off the train, Florence was SCORCHING HOT, 90 degrees and about 80% humidity (sweat-o-rama!!!). Being Florence, David and I had to of course, do some Il Porcelino rubbing:Snout Luck #1: Nick Verreos rubs Il Porcelino, Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, Florence Italy Snout Luck #2: David Paul rubs to return to Florence--in milder weather he hopes That night--after checking in--we (Althea finally made into town!) were happily greeted by the Summer in Italy "Emperor", our host Dr. Mark Bernheim and enjoyed a lovely dinner with all the Miami University of Ohio Summer in Italy students and their advisers/instructors. Polimoda Tour: The following day, we gathered near the Arno River to head to the Polimoda International Institute Fashion Design and Marketing , one of the top Italian Institutions devoted to fashion. Approximately 50 students (and some parents) came with us to get their "Florence Fashion Fix". Florence has deep roots in fashion as you may know: Both the Houses of Ferragamo AND Gucci were founded here! On the way, both Althea, David and I enjoyed chatting with the students (mostly the girls of course!) and their moms on all things Project Runway naturally. In case you were wondering, yes, I gave LOTS of DIRT on the show and the behind-the-scenes. You gotta take the Miami University Summer Italy Program to find out what that was! Like last year, we toured the gorgeous campus, the hilltop Villa Strozzi and as a bonus, got an introduction from... Polimoda's Dean, Linda Loppa as well as...Kim Coston (above), a former professor at Polimoda-FIT who taught my Project Runway Season 2 alumn, Daniel Vosovic. One of the highlights of visiting the school was the rotunda "Foyer", where traditionally, the institute displays some of the latest creations from its top students. On display were these amazing ensembles, in muslin/toile, designed and constructed by the students. My favorites included an intricate Elizabethan-inspired leotard that featured "crinoline" exaggerated Bishop sleeves, boned bodice, a ruff, and even shoulder "horns". It had overtones of 16Th Century Costumes, Alexander McQueen and Vampire Goddess Couture (is that enough of a description for you?). Another garment being displayed was of a dress, both demure in its coverage but elaborately sensual in its drapery and pattern technique:The front was pleated and full and the back had multi-layered ruffles: It was a "party" from all angles. It was so delicately made, it had the look of a silk gazar dress. But the pièce de résistance was an Alien-like caged structure knotted and tied with inner boning and wiring: I can't imagine an Italian actress such as fashion diva Monica Bellucci or Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani ever wearing this, but I guess that's not the point. I was awestruck by the construction and appearance. On display were the designer's conception sketches and even... a Barbie Doll mini-model with a paper mock-up. The Polimoda Tour ended with a lunch and a group photo-op with some of the not-so-camera shy Miami University students. Firenze Vice: Jerry Ingram and Nick Verreos I also had to pose with my "Eurotrash brother from another Mother", the incredibly talented fashion photographer Jerry Ingram, who was also part of the All-Star group that day. We seriously look like the Italian Version of "Miami Vice"! Here is a short video showing the fabulous Polimoda Institute Library: But now, it was onto our Lectures back at the Summer Study Program in Italy headquarters at the Istituto Gould, or Gould Institute. Nick and Althea Lectures: Lecture Dressing: Nick Verreos and Althea Harper pose with students, in very cute Summer dresses Althea went first and did a fabulous job discussing how she got started in fashion and how she conceived her Bryant Park Project Runway Finale Collection. After a brief "get some espresso" break, I then spoke about my love of fashion, flight attendants and South American aristocratic divas, my road to Project Runway and what I have done since--and also spoke about the power of "new journalism" and branding. May I Have More Wine? Nick Verreos and Miami University of Ohio Summer Program director, professors, and students, "Final Night Dinner" at Golden View Open Bar Restaurant The students--and moms--in attendance all enjoyed our lectures and in fact, wanted more, which I guess is a good thing. That evening, we were treated to a "Ciao Dinner" at the very chic Golden View Open Bar Restaurant overlooking the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. Last year, we had our final night dinner here and I loved going back! Always the nicest ending to a great two days with the Miami University of Ohio team and students. For more... *Read Professor Annie Blair's Blog, MiamiOhioFirenze, HERE *Read Miami University student Kelsey's blog, Subdued Chaos HERE, where she has a nice write-up on Althea and me.