Creativity comes from every corner of Italy, and the country’s $ 67 billion fashion business draws on the talents of craftsmen who tap into generations of tradition.
But the coronavirus sent shockwaves across the industry, closing shops and canceling fashion shows, costing $ 20 billion.
Correspondent Seth Doane has traveled across Italy in recent months to see how craftsmen have dealt with the COVID era, from fabric factory floors in the eastern Veneto region, to the hills of Umbria.
In the fashion capital, Milan, Raffaella Grasso inherited Pino Grasso Ricami’s embroidery business from her father; photos of past successes were taped to the walls. His clients include Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, and Bottega Veneta.
He explained the embroidery technique to Doane; “The technique we use is that the sequins overlap really well, and that makes a difference, and this is something you can only do by hand.”
The elaborate dress worn by Eva Longoria at the Cannes Film Festival takes 1,000 hours to embroider, and mastery of this craft can take years of apprenticeship.
Doane met embroideries who had worked at the company for nearly three and four decades.
There is a lot of collective knowledge – but this craft is in jeopardy. When “Sunday Morning” was visited last summer, orders from fashion houses fell by 70 percent.
“So we work halfway,” said Grasso – with the people making half of it.
Since then, they’ve taken several jobs, but it’s still down by 50%. They are already worried about another wave of infections, which Italy is now experiencing.
It’s a fight to keep the business going. “If we have to close down, some of our knowledge and all of our experiences will be lost forever,” said Grasso.
“So thinking about having to close isn’t just about losing business, it’s about losing more than that,” Doane asked.
“More than that, yes.”
In central Italy, the cities that dot the hills of Umbria may seem remote, but the fashion business here is hardly isolated.
If a store doesn’t open in Los Angeles or New York or Tokyo, “We feel it,” says Adria Castellani, of Luxury Cashmere, which makes high-end sweaters, scarves and shirts for high-end fashion houses, including Ralph Lauren and Brunello Cucinelli.
When Doane visited last year, they fulfilled an order made last spring before Italy’s nine-week national lockdown. But retail sales in their own stores fell by nearly 50 percent.
“The work itself is the same,” said Castellani, “but in recent years we have had a lot more security.”
Lorenzo Bonotto runs his family’s company, Bonotto Fabrics, which produces Chanel, Alexander Wang, Tory Burch, Theory and hundreds of other clients.
“Fashion has always been a business that is projected into the future,” he said, “because we need to think about, to plan, what is going to hit the stores next year.”
How does COVID affect business orders?
“Initially, it was a huge hit,” says Bonotto. But they have covered the loss. Since they supplied to companies in multiple countries, they have seen orders come back from places where the lockdown had loosened.
Doane asked, “Have you seen orders rise and fall in different parts of the world, because the lockdowns have disappeared?”
“Working globally we can more or less compensate for what was lost, lost orders from Europe came from Asia,” said Bonotto. “What the United States is now missing is coming from Europe now.”
This flexibility, he says, is an art, and he finds inspiration in the contemporary pieces they have on the walls. His father started collecting decades ago, and today they have more than 17,000 pieces.
“You don’t expect to browse factories and warehouses and see forklifts past large works of art?” asked Doane.
“Yes, yes, yes, you are right!”
They thrive on creativity. This is essential for imagining new fabrics and designs. “Just because we have art around us to help be creative, and being creative is the first vaccine against COVID,” said Bonotto.
Creativity, he assured Doane, “is a mental vaccine.”
Finding opportunities is challenging in this environment, but craftsmen who have built businesses based on their talents now use that same creativity to survive.
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Story produced by Jon Carras and Anna Matranga. Editor: Lauren Barnello.
ROME: Former Inter Milan striker Ronaldo said Sunday’s Serie A match against Juventus was not a title winner, while the two-time World Cup winner Brazil also expressed admiration for AC Milan talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Juve host second-placed Inter Juve in the “Italian Derby” at the San Siro, and a win will put them seven points clear of fourth-placed Turin side.
Antonio Conte’s men have emerged as a serious threat to Juve’s nine-year grip on the Italian title this season, along with league leaders Milan.
But Ronaldo, who spent five years at Inter from 1997 to 2002 and two seasons at Milan at the end of his career, played down the significance of Sunday’s game and spoke about the Rossoneri’s chances.
“With half a season left to play, it’s just pride, to understand how ready you are to compete at that level,” the Brazilian told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“If you mean that both of them will fight for the Scudetto, we also have to put Milan into the equation. This season is unique, like a championship with a surprise ending.
“And Milan surprised me: attacking football, fast, a player with quality.”
Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan in January 2020 has had a transformative effect, and they are three points clear this weekend at the top of the table in their quest to end their decade-long wait for the league title.
The Swedish striker’s outstanding form played a big part, with the 39-year-old scoring 10 goals in seven league games this season, and he returned from injury from injury for two months last weekend.
“Ibrahimovic always said he considered me an idol, but I consider it a unique case, a great example for football,” said Ronaldo.
“Even if I didn’t suffer all the injuries I had, I would never have played until I was 40 like him.”
Stefano Bozzini, who became famous for humming his wife under a hospital window, is now hosting his fellow patients at the COVID-19 center.
The image of an 81-year-old Italian man humming his wife under a hospital window touched hearts around the world last November.
Stefano Bozzini, a retired member of the Italian army’s Alpini mountain infantry, became famous for playing the accordion for his wife, Carla Sacchi, at his hospital in Castel S. Giovanni near Piacenza.
Stefano was not admitted to hospital because of Italian covid-19 restrictions so instead she sits on the page below with her accordion, singing Carla’s song for weeks with all the songs that define their 47 years of marriage together.
Since then Carla has died and now Stefano has been treated at a covid clinic near Cortemaggiore, but he is reportedly not in a serious condition.
Stefano’s kids make sure he brings his most precious possession – his accordion – and now the old soldier is hosting fellow patients at the hospital.
His daughter, Lucia, told the Piacenza daily newspaper Freedom that a trusted instrument had helped his father “morally but also physically.”
Regarding Stefano himself, he said: “Sometimes when I am playing, people come into the room, try a few dance steps and then leave.”
One of the most significant restorations to be completed is Augustus Mausoleum which has been abandoned for decades. It will finally reopen to the public on March 1 and will remain free for residents of Rome for 2021.
Rome also restored a new section of Trajan’s Forum, at Via Alessandrina, at the completion of excavations funded by the Republic of Azerbaijan with € 1 million and led to the excavation of a marble head depicting Dionysus and Augustus.
Parco Archeologico del Colosseo undertook work to restore and strengthen many sites including the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgin, the base of Trajan’s Column, Arch of Titus, Domus Tiberiana, Horti Farnesiani and inside the Colosseum itself.
Three days before Christmas, the Italian Ministry of Culture announced an ambitious plan to build a new floor above the Colosseum arena, while Parco Colosseo is the director Alfonsina Russo was told Wanted in Rome restoration on the Arch of Septimius Severus will begin in the coming weeks.
Although tested to its limits, the Italian art sector fought back against obstacles, adapting as much as possible to the almost impossible rules.
Rome’s opera house, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, holds an outdoor production at Circus Maximus during the summer and since then – along with many others in the performing arts including S. Cecilia Academy – embracing all things virtual and moving online.
Two of the world’s largest exhibitions this year opened in Rome: a lavish tribute to the High Renaissance master Raphael on the 500th anniversary of his death, and a collection of Torlonia Marbles that hasn’t been seen in 70 years.
That Torlonia Marbles Show managed to stay open for a few weeks in the fall, with curious Romans heading straight to see the revered collection before returning hidden again, for the time being.
There are some wonderful surprises. Roman archaeologists uncovered the remains of a magnificent Roman villa, or domus, buried for nearly two thousand years under apartment blocks at the foot of the Aventine Hills.
Then there was the discovery of a Roman mosaic floor, in clean condition, under the vineyard near Verona in northern Italy. The find comes after decades of searching for the remains of a long lost Roman villa outside the town of Negrar in Valpolicella.
Archaeologists are both excited and confused by the vast discovery rock pool, dating from the fourth century BC, was discovered during a building project between Rome and Ostia Antica.
During the spring lockup, Italians made international news by singing from them balcony and illuminate their monuments in red, white, and green tricolor flag.
The 10th anniversary of Rome’s 21st Century Art Museum, or MAXXI, indicated by the new Italian postage stamps and planning to open it new museum in L’Aquila, the earthquake-ravaged capital of Abruzzo, in 2021.
There are some very significant projects in Italy in 2020. The northern seaport of Genoa is witnessing a major completion new bridge, designed by Genoese architect Renzo Piano to replace the Ponte Morandi that collapsed in 2018 which resulted in 43 fatalities.
In the capital, the biggest breakthrough was the much delayed tunnel Metro C. Subway finally reached Piazza Venezia, after fear that the underground passage of the three cities would not be further from the Colosseum.
But the biggest project of them all is Moss flood barrier in Venice which has been activated, has succeeded, several times since the summer.
This is a real game changer for the canal city but there are still some difficulties to solve, such as agreeing on which water level the barrier has to swing to operate. In addition, he drew a line under a project long overshadowed by delays and corruption scandals.
Union of countries
In October there was much excitement among United Nations agencies in Rome when the World Food Program won Nobel Peace Prize “as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.” Another major UN agency based in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), celebrated it 75th birthday.
In a year when entertainment was lacking, actors Tom Cruise dashing through Rome in a yellow Fiat 500, filming car chases Mission: Impossible 7 in the Spanish Steps and along the back street of Monti.
The Hollywood A-lister added a bit of excitement to the capital this fall as well as injecting an estimated € 18 million into the city’s battered economy.
2020 sees the announcement of ambitious plans for the future. There is a suggestion to make “Netflix from Italian culture“Streaming platform and plans to create hiking trails linking the country’s 25 national parks, spanning 7,000 km.
In a referendum in September, more than 70 percent of Italians voted to cut the size of the country’s parliament and senate, reducing the total number of MPs and senators from 945 to 600.
In November, the lower house of the Italian parliament passed Anti-discrimination bill which makes violence against LGBT people and people with disabilities, as well as hatred against women, a hate crime. Under the law, those found guilty of such attacks risk a longer prison sentence. The bill requires final approval from the upper house, which is backed by the ruling coalition party, before it becomes law.
There are congratulations all over the board for Antonella Polimeni who smashed the 700 year old glass ceiling to become the first woman to be appointed rector of La Sapienza since the venerable university of Rome was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303.
It was a year of return when Italy stepped in to save its citizens trapped abroad: liberation first of all Silvia Romana, a young aid worker was held hostage for 18 months in Somalia.
Then, just at Christmas time, Sicily welcomed the return of 18 fishermen who had been held captive in Libya for more than 100 days.
Lastly, 2020 was a better year than usual for nature, with Italian animals and birds enjoying far more lockdowns than we did. Duck comes in Roman fountain, the canal without boats in Venice becomes clear, and the whale is back to the Strait of Messina without a boat.
Grass breaking through the rocks in a patchwork rugs which brings a rustic feel to Italian cities. Wildflowers will continue to grow as we turn our faces towards spring and hope for better things to come.
This article is published in the January 2021 online issue of Wanted in Rome.