(Interview by Marco de la Pierre, Communication Manager of DotFlorence.com & StudentsVille.it)
1. When was the school founded?
Polimoda came into being in 1986, an initiative which was organized and financed by the city councils of Florence and Prato, and by business associations in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), State University of New York.
2. How many students are there every year?
More than 950 students attend Polimoda courses every year.
3. Where do the students come from?
40% of the students are international and come from all over the world, while 60% are Italian and about 25% are from Tuscany.
4. Why do students choose Polimoda in Florence?
Polimoda is known for its high standards and has well over twenty years experience in fashion education. The Institute’s strong point is without doubt its close relationship with businesses which on the one hand allows us to adapt our study programmes to real market needs, and on the other facilitates access to employment for the students as they undertake a period of internship undertaken at the end of their courses and Master courses. We are very proud of the rate of employment of our graduates, which is 90% within six months of completing their studies.
5. What kind of courses do you offer? Which are the most popular courses?
Polimoda programmes are subdivided into the two general areas of Design and Marketing, covering all professional careers in the fashion system. The three-year post-diploma courses are our core business – Fashion Design, Footwear Design, Pattern Making, Marketing Management and Marketing Communications – and as of this year an optional fourth year master class is available. In addition to these, there is a wide and constantly updated range of Masters courses taught in English and Italian. The most recent are the Masters for Fashion Stylists and Fashion Brand Management.
As for the most popular courses, this year we have seen a significant increase – up to 40 per cent – in enrolments on courses in the marketing area, especially for the three-year courses in marketing management and marketing communication. The Fashion Design course, one of our strongest options, is also greatly in demand.
6. How has the school developed over the years?
When Polimoda came into being 23 years ago, it had about fifty students and only two courses, Fashion Design and Marketing. Over the years, the name of the institute – originally known as the International Fashion Polytechnic – gained a reputation at a national and international level, while both the number of students and the range of courses continued to increase. This year we have five undergraduate courses and 25 Masters in Italian and English, as well as orientation and summer courses. This growth has been matched by the acquisition of new buildings and structures, thus extending the facilities of the historic Villa Strozzi in Florence: the ‘Scuderie’ at Villa Strozzi house the lecture rooms where theory is taught and the computer laboratories, the Design Lab where the design and pattern making laboratories are, and Castello dell’Acciaiolo in Scandicci where the footwear laboratories are. In 2002 Polimoda Srl, now Polimoda Consulting, came into being to provide services to businesses in the fashion sector and now consists of a group of 35 important businesses.
Today Ferruccio Ferragamo is the President of Polimoda, while the Chairman of Polimoda Consulting is Santo Versace: the support provided by such important personalities of the fashion world is of immense value to the Institute and is confirmation of the faith that both the fashion system and businesses have in our teaching methods.
7. What plans are there for the future (courses, new premises, new partnerships)?
Polimoda will soon have prestigious new premises in the city centre – the beautiful Villa Favard on the banks of the river Arno. Financed by the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, work on the renovation of the buildings is now underway and should be entirely completed in 2011. This new building provides a great opportunity for the further development and expansion of Polimoda, not only in terms of space and number of students, but also in terms of excellence and prestige on a national and international level. Covering an area of 4,500 sq metres, the new centre will house lecture rooms, offices and laboratories, including an auditorium seating 100 people, as well as the archive and the Documentation Centre, not to mention the former stables and the splendid garden of 3,700 sq metres.
8. Industrial/commercial/institutional partnerships?
As already mentioned our relationship with the business world is extremely important for Polimoda. In addition to the 35 members of Polimoda Consulting – Ferragamo, Gucci, Tod’s and the Chalhoub Group, for example – we are constantly in contact with the foremost national and international brand names, as well as with local businesses. Our relationship with Florentine industries, renowned for their craftsmanship, the quality of their prime materials, and production in the fashion sector, enables Polimoda to appreciate and understand the most vital characteristics of fashion.
9. Internships and professional employment.
I believe that a period working in a company is a fundamental part in the education of young professionals. It enables them to put what they have learned into practice and to experience the working environment for the first time, as well as making a name for themselves and providing an opportunity to show their skills. Polimoda believes so strongly in the effectiveness of internships that it has an “Ufficio Stage” with expert and qualified staff working exclusively on arranging student placements at the end of courses, determined to find the right person for the right place. As a result, last year 33 per cent of our internships developed into direct employment with the same company!
10. The relationship between the school and the city (events, festivals, exhibitions, etc..)?
Polimoda and Florence are very closely linked. I believe that, with its sense of aesthetics, its culture, art and crafts, the city has much to offer the world of fashion and our institute. I also think that the city, in turn, believes strongly in Polimoda and the contribution we can make in promoting Florence as one of the major fashion cities. We have excellent relationships and collaborate in many important Florentine events, such as Pitti Immagine, the ‘Galleria del Costume’ and the Fashion Archives. Every year we organise many events that are open to the public: already organised for 2010 are three Open Days to be held at the end of March, and the second edition of the Polimoda Fashion Week, from 10 to 20 June, including the Polimoda fashion show and talks, events and exhibits throughout the city.
11. Do you think that studying in Florence and Italy still gives students a plus factor? Why?
If the concept of Made in Italy implies quality and style throughout the world, then studying in Florence provides an amazing plus factor. Not only does the city offer art, culture and a sense of aesthetics, but it is also a centre of excellence for fashion production. The opportunity to contact fashion companies and proximity to the areas of textile and leather production is a wonderful asset for our students. And we shouldn’t forget that this is also one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
12. Who are your major international competitors? Which cities, countries or schools can compete with Polimoda?
London and England certainly have very important schools, with more than half a century of experience in the teaching and study of fashion. There are also competitive schools in the United States and Antwerp also has an excellent reputation for style….
However, every fashion school has its own distinctive characteristics: what distinguishes Polimoda is its awareness of and response to professional requirements within the fashion system, and the ability to produce new designers who will be the makers of tomorrow’s fashion.
13. Which do you think are the “coolest” cities today for studying fashion?
These days all the world is a city, there are so many different cross currents and links and I don’t think you can define a city as “cool” or “not cool” in any true sense. But I do believe that if you really want to study fashion seriously, it is better to choose a city which is less influenced by fashion and trends, as it allows a greater freedom for creative expression and development of a personal style.
14. Outstanding Polimoda teachers past and present.
All our teachers are experts and professionals with a background of long experience working for companies in the sector. Some are former students who have returned to Polimoda bringing their skills and knowledge to pass on to future professionals.
15. Success stories of Polimoda students and teachers
Former Polimoda students now work for the most important designers, both as stylists and in marketing, often filling prestigious positions of international importance. Massimiliano Giornetti, for example, qualified in Fashion Design in 2008 and is now creative director for men’s and women’s fashion for Salvatore Ferragamo. Other graduates have succeeded in launching their own brand: most recently two young marketing experts who qualified last year, have created their own brand and produced a collection. Next year one of them will return to Polimoda to specialise in design, taking a Masters course. There are many other stories, each one different, and it is my aim to see these young Polimoda designers change the future of Italian fashion!