When first arriving in Florence for a semester abroad, I was overwhelmed by my new surroundings, but one of my most immediate impressions was that Italians seemed to wear black all the time. I quickly discovered that I was not the only foreigner with this initial observation. It was time to investigate the phenomenon that nearly every fashion-oriented newcomer to Florence notices, but never seems to figure out.

While Florence might not be the contemporary fashion capital that Milan is, a vast majority of Florentines still appreciate and take pride in outfitting themselves in the latest trends. Many influential Italian designers such as Valentino, Prada, and Salvatore Ferragamo frequently incorporate the color black into their collections. Perhaps it's the psychological component: nero is commonly associated with the glamorous, the sophisticated or the exclusive. Even Gucci, well-known for its extravagant colors, still uses black in many of their products; the vibrant prints of Emilio Pucci often, sometimes surprisingly, feature black as a base. Whether it is the simplicity, elegance, sophistication, or “expensive” look the color may bring to their products, one thing is certain: black sells. 

Black also has a conceptual link to the Tuscan lifestyle, characterized by simplicity and a strong awareness of consumption. Speaking to Tuscan students about their inclination toward black clothing, it was clear that their tastes in fashion, as well as in the food they eat and the entertainment they consume, all reflect their attraction to an image of luxury and a value for the utmost quality. Even people who cannot necessarily afford top name brands seem to aspire to create the illusion that they are engaging in this type of lifestyle. It’s clear that high-end fashion companies have successfully managed to associate the color black with an image of prestige for their consumers. This aspect of Italian fashion culture contrasts with the idea of fast fashion and mass production that depreciate the value of the individual product.

That’s not to say that steering clear of color is the only way to go in Florence. But black and, more broadly, neutrals in general tend to serve as a reflection of the characteristically Italian approach to consumption: keeping things simple so that quality stands out. I may not be putting away my prints just yet, but that value system is certainly something I can get behind.

Written by Victoria Wixson
Photographed, styled and modeled by Victoria Wixson and Colleen Dupey

Article in partnership with IED Firenze

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