AIFS in Florence, Italy

Making Accessories with Eco-Friendly Tuscan Fabrics

Richmond University students learn the secrets of traditional tailoring techniques making their accessories

By Professor Costanza Menchi

Many of us admire Italian fashion and the designers on magazines and fashion shows, but do we really know what there is behind the glamorous objects that we all desire? The main goal of the didactic project Let’s Work Artisans! Learning Through Experience is revealing the secret "added value" of Italian craftsmanship. The project, promoted by the association Osservatorio dei Mestieri d’Arte, designed and coordinated by Professors Costanza Menchi and Debora Chellini, promotes the study of the artistic crafts through workshops, meetings, lectures and events that make participants appreciate and better understand the authentic high quality products made in Florence and made in Italy, and finally be able to recognize them.

On Tuesday, November 8th, students from the Richmond University in Florence participated in a workshop organized by Let’s Work Artisans! with the master tailor and dressmaker Irma Schwegler, in her Florentine workshop Old Fashion. When they arrived at Mrs. Schwegler’s "sartoria," they were immediately surrounded by the beautiful colors of the 100% natural Tuscan fabrics, like the Casentino cloth, used for the winter collection. There were also the warm atmosphere of the woolen cloth and the made-to-measure coats ready for the elegant clients. Irma introduced the students to the art of tailoring and specifically to her style. Irma Schwegler said that her Old Fashion workshop reinterprets the traditional Italian art of tailoring following an innovative path in the field of the artistic crafts. Irma works always pursuing a cultural research on textiles, and fibers, following arising inspirations. She reinvents, in a modern way, the stylistic features of the past like capes, vests, etc… in this way a new fashion comes to life: the country chic, made to measure using Tuscan fabrics, for both men and women who are looking for the top of the luxury: unique creations.

After visiting the workshop and having learned the main tools used by Irma and her assistant Marie, students became "apprentices" and began creating her personalized accessories: a keychain and a brooch. Irma showed prepared samples, and the various types of fabrics, explaining the differences and stimulating the students to touch and familiarizing themselves with the textures. Then she explained the main steps of the making process, leaving the students free to create what they wanted, mixing and matching colors and shapes. All the students began choosing the colors and the fabrics, deciding what they wanted to do and then cutting and hand stitching each single piece. Irma and her assistant patiently helped the students. For some of them, this was the first time they had a needle in their hands; others have learned how to sew from their mother. But for all it was a big challenge. They were all concentrating, but the general atmosphere was relaxed and friendly; tthere was no pressure in making something perfect, as the students pointed out. Finally they all commonly agreed that you need a lot of patience, skills, and love in creating handmade products, and you can’t appreciate the efforts artisans put in it until you find yourself doing it. They also felt accomplished for having made finished accessories, totally original and unique.

All the students at the end posed proudly for a picture wearing their accessories, and presenting them with a big smile revealing all their satisfaction and new respect for the artistic craft of "sartoria."

Richmond in Florence

Richmond Florence Internship Program